The NRA is suing Florida over a recently passed law that raises the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21. The push to raise the age to 21 has been the latest idea for those who insist on “doing something” to combat mass shootings. Republican lawmakers seem to believe that it is not particularly controversial and have more-or-less signed onto the idea. However, raising the age to purchase firearms to 21 raises an important societal question.
In the United States, 18 is the age of adulthood. You can vote at 18, serve in the military, purchase tobacco, among other things. You are also be obligated to do certain things when turning 18. You can be selected for jury duty and if you are male, you are required to sign up with the Selective Service. But, apparently you should not be able to exercise your Second Amendment rights. At 18 you are old enough for Uncle Sam to hand you an M-16 and tell you to go over to Afghanistan and fight the Taliban, but a civilian of legal adult age cannot exercise his or her Constitutional right of self-defense.
Worse still, some have floated the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. Here, proponents of raising the minimum gun purchasing age to 21 have contradicted themselves. 16 year olds are apparently mature enough to be trusted with decisions of great consequence facing the Republic, but anyone under 21 cannot be trusted with firearms, regardless of their personal situation or personal history of using guns.
The bill in Florida that the NRA is suing over, should prompt a national conversation. An actual conversation, not the “conversations” that we usually engage in which consists of those favoring more gun control telling others to sit down and shut up, because they “don’t care about dead children”. Either you are an adult at 18 or you are not. If you are, then the government cannot deny you your Constitutionally protected rights. Imagine if 18-20 year olds were told that they could not voice their opinion on public matters, including the gun debate, because they were deemed too young, but were still considered legal adults. The right to bear arms, as laid out in the Second Amendment, is not as Clarence Thomas has said, “a second-class right.” The Second Amendment is still just as much a part of the Bill of Rights as freedom of speech and religion or the right to due process.
18 is the age where most people leave home for the first time and live on their own. By the age of 20, many live in apartments while attending college. Away from home, they are not protected by family members over 21 who may wish to exercise their Second Amendment rights. If they feel that they need a firearm to defend themselves or whether they are simply enjoy hunting or going to the range, the government has no business denying them that right.
This country has decided that 18 is the age of adulthood and that means the Second Amendment applies to them as well.