A quick review of the arguments appears to be in order:
- If you are 18 you can get your boots sandy in Syria or the next garden spot you visit.
- An 18-year-old can vote.
- An 18-year-old is allowed to enter into most business contracts.
- An 18-year-old can marry.
- An 18-year-old cannot, however, purchase alcoholic beverages.
Since passage of the 26th Amendment in the 1970s, 18-year-olds have been considered in most cases to be adults.
The double standard of drafting young men to fight in Vietnam but not letting them vote or act like an adult fueled first a federal law then the Constitutional Amendment.
For about 10 years after passage of the amendment, 18-year-olds could even walk into a bar and buy a beer. In the 1980s, however, the country deemed this was a “bridge too far,” and withdrew that final banner of adulthood.
Returning the “drinking age” to 21, left the country with the odd condition of 18-year-olds who were in the armed forces able to buy a beer on base, but unable to grab a six-pack off post.
This strange turn of events brings us to the current debate about 18-year-olds being able to legally purchase firearms.
Before passage of the 26th Amendment, persons between ages 18 and 21 had no such “right.”
I remember ordering my first .22 rifle from Montgomery Ward. It was a Marlin, bolt action with a 10-round clip and I was probably 14. If I hadn’t given it to my grandson a couple of years ago, I would still own it.
Reading the fine print in the retailer’s catalogue, I asked my father what did Montgomery Ward have against people who dug coal and other products from the ground.
“What do you mean?” Dad asked.
“It says here, ‘no sales to minors,’” I replied.
Dad laughed and explained the difference between miners and minors. He also signed to receive the rifle when it arrived at the catalogue store.
Recent events like the Parkland shootings indicate that gun sales to minors, like alcohol sales, may be a privilege of adulthood that should be left until age 21.
We need to ask ourselves if 18-year-olds should continue to have a right to walk into a gun store and buy an AR-15 without their parent’s knowledge or consent. If there is a legitimate reason for the purchase, whether it is for fun, sport or protection, I suspect a parent would sign off on the deal.
If no parent or guardian is in the child’s life, minors have the right to petition the courts for full adult rights.
Gun sales to 18-year-olds is a bad idea and an unintended consequence of the 26th Amendment. Let’s fix this problem now.
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