Justice wants age to buy assault weapons upped to 21

·4 min read

Jun. 1—Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday he would support raising the age to purchase an assault weapon to 21, up from the current 18.

"I do not agree with an 18-year-old who can buy an assault weapon," he said. "To me, the age ought to be 21."

Justice made the comment during his COVID briefing when commenting on the tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Texas that resulted in 19 students and two teachers shot and killed by an 18-year-old who had purchased two assault weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition just after he had turned 18.

"Why is an 18-year-old allowed to buy an assault weapon?" he said, adding that he does not want to see a ban on the sale of assault weapons, but the age should be 21.

Other than that one action he would support, Justice said the problem is far greater than that and is so "complex it's unbelievable."

Justice suggested a comprehensive, "all-in" approach to address the whole of what contributes to such acts of violence.

"This situation is way, way too complex to say that just do this or that..." he said.

Part of the problem is politicians, he said, who are more worried about getting reelected than actually taking logical steps to help remedy the many problems in the country regardless of any political consequences.

They just want to get on a soapbox to get attention, then do nothing about it, he added.

"Mental health issues are rampant," he said. "Why are we not doing something about it?"

Justice said many factors need to be examined, including violent video games, social media, pornography, a judicial system that is too lenient and adults not getting more involved with kids.

"Let young men start on a pathway to grow up and be men," he said, "protecting women and kids, protecting people."

Justice said people should pay for their crimes and if the jails are full, "build more jails."

Making schools safer should be a priority, he said, and that may include more armed guards, but he went back to the idea of trying to tackle the core issues that can lead to such shootings.

"If we don't do something about this, we are gong to have more of this," he said, and that means coming up with a comprehensive plan.

"I am not optimistic," he said. "All we are going to do is talk a bunch of rhetoric but not get much done."

Jeff Sandy, West Virginia Homeland Security Secretary, was also on hand Tuesday to address school safety in the state.

The state is doing "everything possible to ensure our schools are safe," he said, urging residents to call 911 if they see an incident or calling a hotline about anything suspicious.

"If you see an incident, it is your patriotic duty to dial 911," he said.

The hotline number is 1-866-723-3982.

Sandy said the most effective prevention measure has been the Prevention Resource Officer (PRO).

These trained police officers are placed in schools as a prevention measure.

"They keep schools safe and give kids a mentor to understand a police officer's role," he said, pointing out that PROs have intervened and stopped dangerous incidents from occurring "countless times" in state schools.

Sandy said training continues to be offered to teachers and others on how to respond to active shooter events.

On the age issue for assault weapons, those firearms fall under the category of a "long gun," which are rifles and shotguns traditionally used for hunting and sold legally to those 18 to 20. However, pursuant to federal law, states do not allow the sale of handguns to anyone under 21 through a federally licensed dealer.

According to the federal ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco and Firearms), "An individual between 18 and 21 years of age may acquire a handgun from an unlicensed individual who resides in the same state, provided the person acquiring the handgun is not otherwise prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under federal law. A federal firearms licensee may not, however, sell or deliver a firearm other than a shotgun or rifle to a person the licensee knows or has reasonable cause to believe is under 21 years of age.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com