Florida has raised the age for purchasing a long gun to 21. The drinking age is technically set by the several States, but back in the early Eighties the Imperial government used highway funds to blackmail the states to raising that age to 21. Imperial law has for years stated the age to buy a handgun at 21, and now croakers in the Imperial City are talking about following Florida in the case of long guns.
I’m wondering if that’s such a bad idea.
Now, before you square away at me, let me explain.
Our society seems to have arrived at the conclusion that kids from 18 to 21 years of age are fundamentally irresponsible. We don’t allow them to drink, to gamble, to purchase handguns; we don’t allow them to adopt children or (in most states) rent cars.
But at 18, we allow these kids to sign contracts. We allow them to drive; we allow them to join the military. We allow them to vote, for crying out loud.
Last month, over at Reason.com, A. Barton Hinkle weighed in on the whole gradual age of majority issue. Excerpt:
The U.S. already has raised the drinking age to 21. But as is often noted, you need be only 18 to enlist in the armed forces—i.e., to volunteer for missions that could entail not only losing your own life but taking others’.
The age of enlistment offers two rationales for not raising the age at which someone can buy a gun. If you’re mature enough to enlist, goes one, then you’re mature enough to own a gun. (Rebuttal: Enlistees’ lives are regimented to a ridiculous degree. Unlike civilian 18-year-olds, they’re not being given free rein.)
The second rationale holds that if you are old enough to sacrifice your life in America’s defense, then you should have access to all of America’s constitutional rights. Indeed, that was largely the rationale behind lowering the voting age once the age of conscription had been lowered.
Of course, nobody ever died because somebody picked up a ballot in a moment of anger. Nor has an improperly or accidentally used ballot ever killed anyone. People die from gunfire under those conditions all the time. So there might be some sense in leaving the voting age at 18 but raising the age of access to devices that can kill.
Except that most states let teenagers drive without supervision at age 16—and sometimes earlier—even though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points out that “teenage drivers have the highest crash risk per mile traveled.” In fact, the Institute says, the fatal crash rate for drivers age 16-19 is “nearly three times as high as the rate for drivers 20 and over.”
So, the answer is obvious. The age of majority should be regularized. Teenage drivers are dangerous, it seems; obviously the Tide-Pod Eating Generation can’t handle rifles or shotguns, or a glass of beer. Good, then; take this to its obvious conclusion. Congress should immediately act to raise the age of majority overall to 21. Prior to that age youths will not be allowed to drink, to drive, to sign contracts, to join the military, to purchase firearms and, most important of all, to vote.
At least then our idiotic graduated-age-of-majority system will be gone; at least then we will have some damned consistency.
And, yes, I am being sarcastic. I actually am in favor of regularizing the age of majority for all things. At eighteen. But occasionally it’s useful to take an argument to its ultimate, ridiculous conclusion.