Should the legal age to buy a gun be raised to 21?


Fact Box

  • On June 8, 2022, the House passed the Protecting Our Kids Act in a 223-204 vote to ban 21-year-olds from the purchase of assault weapons to “reduce gun violence and save lives.”
  • According to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), federal law restricts those under 18 from buying handguns, but they are still allowed to buy from non-licensed sellers in the secondary market with “no age restrictions” on the transfer of rifles and shotguns by non-licensed sellers.
  • A June 2022 USA Today/Ipsos poll found that 69% of Americans favor stricter gun laws with more support coming from Democrats (88%) and less from Republicans (50%). 
  • Gun Violence Archive reported a 25% increase in gun violence in the US from 2019 to 2020, totaling 19,223 deaths. From January to April 8, 2021, there were 11,428 deaths by gun, and 4,960 from homicide, murder, or unintentional gun death.

Luke (No)

While there is no official worldwide age at which someone becomes a legally-recognized adult, all Americans who turn 18 are permitted to partake in societal roles. This includes exercising the right to vote as per the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, making the potentially life-threatening decision of joining the US military, and signing up for the Selective Service—a military draft currently required only of American males. Additionally, it is also notable that in 47 of 50 states, 18 is the 'age of majority,' or the age at which an individual can be tried criminally as an adult. There are even several states which allow individuals who are 18 years old to become police officers.

If an American at the age of 18 is granted the legal ability to make critical decisions (voting, police service) and take on heavy responsibilities (military training and deployment with weapons abroad), it stands to reason they are deserving of all of the rights and responsibilities that come with being a legal US adult. This concept logically extends to the Second Amendment, where the right of American citizens to own firearms is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution—a right that is explicitly not to be infringed and exists so American citizens can defend themselves, their loved ones, and their property.

Because 18-year-olds are able to make important decisions of their own volition, including the ability to die for their country, and because of the need for self-sufficient adults to be able to defend themselves, the legal age to buy a gun should not be raised to 21. 

Tyler (Yes)

The reasons for raising the minimum age of purchasing a firearm are clear-cut. Perhaps most strikingly, an alarming amount of mass shooters have been under the age of 21, with many of them having obtained their firearms legally and with little to no resistance. By raising the age to purchase a firearm, the government would give the public more time to identify any alarming behavior of youth within their communities, which could possibly prevent future atrocities from unfolding. 

Adults aged 18 through 21 have a violent crime rate 17 times higher than other adults, proving that there is reason to hold off on allowing 18-year-olds to purchase a firearm. Nikolas Cruz and Salvador Ramos, the perpetrators of the Parkland and Uvalde shootings, were both under 21 years old. Payton Gendron, who committed the Buffalo shooting, was also under 21. Many mass shooters have been generally young, dating back to the infamous 1999 Columbine shooting. Pushing the legal age one can purchase firearms to the legal drinking age (21) will help school and local authorities pinpoint potentially troubled youth and possibly provide them with much-needed help and preparation they need to embark on adulthood beyond high school.

Likewise, there is a physiological justification for extending the age. A person's brain keeps developing until the age of 25. Young people still in high school cannot properly process mental and emotional stress and should therefore not be allowed to purchase firearms. Americans aren't allowed to drink or rent a car at 18, yet they are allowed to seamlessly purchase firearms. While military-trained 18-year-olds are allowed to carry firearms, that is with months of extensive handling training and is not the same as simply filling out a paper or being given access to deadly weapons.

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