Calls by several groups and individuals (including President Trump) to raise the legal age for purchasing a firearm to 21 are making headlines at present. The problem is, buying a gun is just one part of being an adult, and it's neither the most risky nor the most politically awkward one.
At the same time, some are calling for the voting age to be reduced to 16. Tell me; if someone's not mature enough to own a gun until they're 21, what makes you think they'll be mature enough to vote - arguably a far graver responsibility - when they're 16? Riddle me that!
There are all sorts of milestones associated with the transition from youth to adulthood and/or maturity:
- The age at which one can obtain an unrestricted driver's license;
- The age at which one can legally buy and/or consume alcohol;
- The age of consent to sexual intercourse;
- The age at which one can buy a firearm (currently split in many jurisdictions, with long guns - rifles and shotguns - legal to buy at 18, but handguns not legal until 21);
- The age at which one can vote;
- The age at which one can hold elected office (often varying according to the office);
- and many more.
I propose that we identify a single age at which any or all of the above age-related rights can be enacted. If the US military can train enlistees at the age of 17 or 18 to use a firearm, and issue one to them as a matter of routine, and if police academies can qualify recruits in firearms and send them to law enforcement agencies who will issue them a gun for daily carry, why should civilians of the same age not be allowed to buy and own a gun? If you're old enough to have sex, why shouldn't you be allowed to drive a car (which can be as lethal a weapon as a firearm, under the wrong circumstances)? If you're old enough to vote, why aren't you old enough to hold elected office?
Let's determine an age at which it's both safe and reasonable to permit and/or encourage any and/or all of the above activities, and use that across the board. At age X, you can have sex, drink, buy a gun, drive a car, vote, be elected, whatever. Anything less is merely a patchwork of nonsensically contradictory variations on whether or not one's an adult.
(There is, of course, the problem of those who'll never learn to be responsible adults, no matter what their age. I've met more than a few of them. What to do with them? Maybe, if their conduct - particularly criminal conduct - demonstrates an ongoing inability to behave like an adult and a civilized human being, we should take away all of their adult rights. Just a thought.)