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Why Age-Restricting Guns is a Bad Idea

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Here’s why you should care about Florida’s ban on gun ownership for adults under 21.

Florida Governer Rick Scott | Image courtesy of Bill Cotterell

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past February, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a law banning gun ownership for Florida adults between the ages of 18 and 21.  As with any law passed in a knee-jerk reaction to a horrible tragedy, this ill-considered law isn’t going to help crime rates or prevent any future tragedies. What it will do is further the current trend to infantilize America’s young adults. Here’s why you should care—even if, like me, you won’t see 21 again unless you get a lucky blackjack dealer.

18-Year-Olds Are Adults

As the saying goes, if an 18-year-old can sign up to die for our country… | Photo of Maj. Terrence Adams courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson

As a society, we’ve had to draw a “bright line” between adulthood and childhood, despite the well-understood reality that maturity exists on a spectrum…and we have (up until now) put that line at age 18. Part of the reason why is that 18 is the age at which it’s possible we might require that person to fight—and potentially die—to defend our country. If we can legally force an 18-year-old adult to take up arms on pain of incarceration (which is what Selective Service is), how can we legally force that same adult not to? How is it all right to tell someone who can vote, commit to a legal contract, and consent to the disposition of their bodies that they still don’t qualify for protection under the Constitution they may be made to defend?

This is Not “Minority Report”

Here’s the point at which we must acknowledge that the Supreme Court has ruled that there are some circumstances in which public safety does trump individual rights. (The classic example is that the First Amendment does not protect your right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater.) And it’s pretty easy to demonstrate that the youngest adults tend to be the ones committing the bulk of violence in America. But let’s take another look at those crime statistics from the DOJ…what else do you notice? About 90 percent of that violence is from men. Does that mean that 50 percent of the population should have their freedom restricted for the crime of being born male? Of course not—this isn’t a dystopian future in which we punish our citizens based on what they might do. (Yet.)

It Won’t Help At All (and Might Make It Worse)

Bath Consolidated School, site of a massacre perpetrated by 55-year old Andrew Kehoe | Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Making it illegal to own a gun until the age of 21 isn’t going to make a difference when it comes to preventing future tragedies. First, murder is already illegal, but that doesn’t seem to have entered into the calculus employed by any of the oxygen-thieves who’ve been committing mass murders up until now. But there’s more to it than that, and nobody really wants to talk about it, but the fact remains: The worst mass murders in American history were not committed with guns. They were committed with bombs…and that has been the case for a century. Part of the reason nobody wants to talk about that is that it sounds as if you’re suggesting that a school shooting is somehow better than a school bombing; part of the reason why nobody wants to talk about it is that we don’t want to give the oxygen-thieves ideas. But the fact remains that when some oxygen thief decides that they’d like to make their skidmark on the Jockey shorts of society, whether or not they can get their booger-hooks on a firearm isn’t going to make much difference.

What good will a law like Florida’s do? Well, it will certainly reinforce the societal narrative—which has been spreading since the mid-80s or so—that childhood extends into one’s mid-twenties and beyond. That it’s acceptable to limit an individual’s freedoms just because someone who looks like him committed a crime. That what you are matters more than who you are. And that’s a very dangerous precedent to set.

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