SEATTLE (AP) — When he was sentenced for killing three teenagers and gravely wounding another at a house party north of Seattle, Allen Ivanov said he was sorry and that he couldn’t explain why he did it.
But he noted one factor that allowed him to carry out the shooting — “the ease of acquiring a gun.” The then-19-year-old bought the assault-style rifle a week earlier and was so unfamiliar with the weapon that he sat in his car outside the party and studied the owner’s manual before opening fire on his ex-girlfriend and others.
That theme has repeated itself, yet again, in America’s latest spate of mass shootings — in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma — which claimed 35 lives in a span of less than three weeks. It is renewing the debate over whether restrictions such as waiting periods and bans on young adults buying semiautomatic rifles could have saved lives.
“If those had been in place, it would have made a difference,” said Paul Kramer, who led a successful 2018 effort to impose a 10-day waiting period on semiautomatic rifle purchases in Washington state, as well as a ban on young adults buying such weapons, after his son Will was gravely wounded during Ivanov’s shooting spree two years earlier. “Those mass shootings would not have unfolded the way that they did, and very likely, lives would have been saved.”
Just nine states and Washington, D.C., have explicit waiting periods before people can purchase at least some types of firearms. The restrictions can give authorities more time to conduct background checks and keep impulsive, emotional people from immediately accessing weapons they might use to kill themselves or others, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The federal government has no waiting period. A bill that passed the Democrat-led U.S. House last year would extend the review period for background checks from three days to 10, but it’s opposed by Republicans and is not part of current negotiations in the Senate over how Congress can respond to the recent massacres.
In Tulsa, authorities said the gunman who killed his surgeon, another doctor and two other people Wednesday bought an AR-style rifle just hours beforehand, as well as a handgun on May 29. The shooter, Michael Louis, 45, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, had recently had an operation and blamed his doctor for continuing back pain.
In Uvalde, Texas, the 18-year-old shooter who killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School had purchased two rifles in the preceding week.
California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia have waiting periods for purchases of all types of weapons, ranging from three to 14 days. Minnesota and Washington impose waiting periods for handguns and semiautomatic rifles, while Maryland and New Jersey have waiting periods only for handguns.
In addition, several other states, including Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts, require buyers of at least some types of guns to obtain permits first, sometimes including completion of safety classes. Those restrictions can function like waiting periods.