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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declines to endorse new gun laws after Uvalde school shooting

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  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is refusing to commit to signing new gun laws.

  • The Republican said the focus should be on mental health and school safety instead.

  • In Texas, 18-year-olds can purchase an AR-15 but not a handgun.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declined Friday to commit to signing any new gun laws in response to the Uvalde school shooting, choosing instead to emphasize the role of mental health.

Abbott, a Republican, said at a press conference in Uvalde that there was no need to limit the purchase of assault weapons such as the AR-15 – the assault rifle that was used by the teenage gunman to kill 21 people, including 19 children, at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday.

"Ever since Texas has been a state, an 18-year-old has had the ability to buy a long gun, a rifle. And since that time, it seems like it's only been in the past decade or two that we've had school shootings," Abbott said. "So for a century and a half, 18-year-olds could buy rifles and we didn't have school shootings, but we do now. Maybe we're focusing our attention on the wrong thing."

Critics of gun laws in Texas point out that there is a significant difference between a rifle used for hunting and a rapid-fire, semi-automatic weapon like the AR-15, which was subject to a federal ban between 1994 and 2004 that corresponded with a decline in mass shootings. Texas currently limits the purchase of handguns to people over the age of 21.

Abbott also declined to endorse any new or enhanced background checks for gun purchases. And he said there was no need to revisit legislation he signed last year allowing for Texans to carry guns without a permit, arguing that the repeal of that particular law would not have prevented this week's massacre.

"No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun — the gun that he did get," Abbott said.

Instead of guns, Abbott said his focus at an upcoming legislative session would be on improving the state's mental health services and security policies at schools.

"Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely yes. And there will be laws in multiple different subject areas," he said. "There will be committees formed, there will be meetings held, there will be proposals that will be derived, many of which will lead to laws that will be passed in the state of Texas."

"The status quo is unacceptable, this crime is unacceptable," he added, and while new gun control measures may not yet be on the table, "we're not going to be here and talking about and doing nothing about it."

Read the original article on Business Insider