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Rep. LaHood signals support for raising minimum age to buy an assault weapon

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Jordan Mead
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Republican Congressman Darin LaHood during Friday's U.S. Military Academy Appointee Reception. LaHood represents the Greater Peoria Area.

Less than halfway through this year, the Gun Violence Archive reports the United States has now seen at least 240 mass shootings. That includes shootings in Tulsa, Uvalde, and Buffalo.

President Biden asked Congress on Thursday to either ban assault weapons or raise the legal age to purchase them from 18 to 21 across the nation.

Speaking Friday in Peoria, U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, said he too sees an issue with the national legal age for purchasing an assault weapon.

“One thing that I think defies common sense is you can be 18, you can’t purchase a beer, you can’t rent a car, you can’t rent a hotel room, but you can get an AR-15 or get an assault weapon. I think looking at whether states should raise the age on that or how we should do that, I think that’s something that Congress is looking at,” said LaHood, who represents parts of Greater Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.

But LaHood said raising the legal purchasing age needs to be looked at through a state-by-state lens.

“Issues in Wyoming are different in California. Illinois is different from Florida. Rhode Island is different than Iowa. So, letting states decide that I think is important," he said.

LaHood said he also believes enforcement of red flag laws should also be up to each individual state. Red flag laws prevent anyone who presents a threat to themselves or others from legally buying a firearm.

LaHood said he is open to new restrictions on who can purchase guns considering the gravity of recent shootings.

“We have gun laws on the books right now that need to be enforced. For instance, if you’re a convicted felon, you can’t have a weapon. If you’ve been convicted of domestic violence, you can’t have a weapon. If you’ve been adjudicated with a mental illness problem, you can’t have a weapon. We need to enforce our laws,” LaHood said.

LaHood also suggested investing leftover COVID-19 funds given to schools towards preventing school shootings, similar to Uvalde, and he said granting more mental and behavioral health resources could also reduce the amount of gun violence incidents throughout the U.S.

Ukraine

Meanwhile, LaHood noted that he is in favor of NATO’s recent efforts towards supporting Ukraine in the ongoing Ukraine and Russia war.

“I’ll just preface this by saying in my view: Putin is a war criminal. He is a thug. He is an authoritarian that needs to be stopped. If you go back 10 weeks ago, Ukraine was a sovereign, independent country recognized by the world. They were invaded in an illegal, unjustified, unprovoked manner and so, this is about freedom. This is about democracy. This is about the future,” LaHood said.

LaHood said he supports the NATO alliance, and the $40 billion Ukrainian aid approved by the Senate in May to protect European democracies.

“We need to continue to do everything that we can to show the world this type of brutality shouldn’t happen in this world,” LaHood said.

LaHood said the ongoing support given to Ukraine’s military reflects the need to not only protect European nations but the United States’ position between Russia and China.

“China has a plan to replace us, and we need to be aware at every level from a national security standpoint, from an economic standpoint, from a trade standpoint how Russia and China are working together against our best interest and so, that’s another reason why we got to support Ukraine,” LaHood said.

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues, LaHood said he believes NATO is stronger than it ever has been, and he looks to see continual investment by other NATO allies in addition to current U.S.-based support to put an end to the war in Ukraine.

“Finland and Sweden had never wanted to join NATO. What you’ve seen because of Putin’s aggression here and brutality, they now want to join NATO. So, I think that’s a reflection of NATO getting stronger and more robust, which I think is good for democracy and freedom,” LaHood said.

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Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WCBU. She joined the station in 2021.