Feb 14, Valentine’s Day, is supposed to be filled with love and happiness. But for students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida, US, this year, it ended up as a nightmare.

A mass shooting occurred at the school that day, with at least 17 people dead and several others wounded, according to NBC News. This makes it the deadliest school shooting in the US since 20 children and six adults died in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut, in 2012, according to Time magazine.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, a former student of the school who had been expelled for breaking school rules, confessed to carrying out the shootings. The weapon that he used was a rifle, which he had bought completely legally.

This raised awareness of a serious issue, that “most Americans can buy a rifle before they can buy their first beer”, wrote HuffPost. While Americans have to turn 21 to buy alcohol legally, they can buy a gun, including a rifle, at the age of 18 in most states, according to the Guardian.

“It is absolutely striking that a young adult who is not legally able to buy alcohol can just walk into a gun store and, provided they pass a background check, can buy a very high-powered and, in some cases, military-style weapon,” Lindsay Nichols, from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Guardian.

The low age requirement for buying long-range guns can be traced back decades, when hunting was very popular among young people in the US, according to the Associated Press.

“Young men would have valid reasons for hunting, and they could even have [a gun] for self defense, but it was primarily for recreation,” Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, US, told HuffPost.

Now, this latest mass shooting in the US has brought back debates over gun control in the country. On Feb 19, many students protested in front of the White House in Washington, calling for more to be done about gun control. The US government is now considering raising the minimum age for buying guns, reported The Telegraph.

As incidents such as this one are becoming more common in the US, perhaps now is the time for the US to finally take action. Just as Sofie Whitney, a senior student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, told the Guardian, “The only way to get through is by making the change.”

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