In the wake of recent mass shootings, there has been renewed debate over gun control measures in the United States. One proposal that has been floated is to raise the age for purchasing a gun. Currently, federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from buying a handgun, but there is no minimum age for purchasing other firearms such as rifles and shotguns.
US Senator, Dianne Feinstein has called on Congress to pass a new law which would raise the age for the purchase of all firearms to the age of 21.
This is a contentious issue and there are pros and cons on both sides of the argument.
Why should we raise the age to purchase a gun?
Neuropsychological research does tell us that the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20’s. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for things like judgment, decision-making, and impulse control, is not fully developed until around this time in human development. This means that young people are more likely to act impulsively and make poor decisions.
Raising the age would help to keep guns out of the hands of young people who are more likely to commit terrible tragedies like the recent shooting in Uvalde, TX. In that shooting, an 18-year old used an AR-15 to murder innocent children at Robb Elementary School.
On the other side of the debate, some people argue that 18-year-olds are legally considered adults and should be allowed to make their own decisions about owning firearms.
They also maintain that most young people who commit crimes with guns acquire them from illegal sources, so raising the age for purchasing firearms would not have a significant impact on gun violence.
Mass shootings are traumatic for Americans
There’s no question that when we see stories in the news about mass shootings, or any similar instances (such as 9/11), we are traumatized by it. Even when we don’t personally know the people involved.
These incidents take a toll on our psyche and can even give us a mild form of PTSD. That stress can influence our behavior and thoughts dramatically.
We are placing a disproportionate amount of thought and anxiety on these sorts of events. Therein lies one of the problems with creating legislation that would attempt to correct this issue, in the face of Constitutional restrictions.
There’s a way to save more lives that is not unconstitutional
We know that kids are the most at risk drivers, but most states allow driving at the age of 16. The CDC says that almost 2400 kids were killed in automobile accidents in 2019 alone.
“Data from the 2016–2017 National Household Travel Survey indicate that the crash rate per mile driven is about 1.5 times as high for 16-year-old drivers as it is for 18–19-year-old drivers.”
By contrast, 364 people of all ages were killed in the US by all rifles the entire year of 2019. These sorts of numbers are fairly consistent from year to year.
Why isn’t there a national discussion to raise the age of drivers by our politicians? If we are really serious about saving lives, why are we so fixated on such a small amount of deaths in the US?
It’s because people aren’t very good at risk assessment and they give in to the emotional response from news coverage and politicians. In the case of politicians, they are irrational and insincere. They don’t care about your rights or your life as much as they care about their agenda.