Defense Of "21 To Buy" Raises Questions

Following Parkland, the state of Florida–a fairly pro-gun state most of the time–enacted a handful of gun control items that infuriated Second Amendment advocates. One of those was raising the age to buy a long gun to 21.

Since federal law already bars sales of handguns to those over the age of 21, this effectively cut off legal adults from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Unsurprisingly, a lawsuit was filed. Now, the defense of that law is going in some very interesting directions, directions that raise some questions that others might prefer to remain unasked.

A legal battle over a Florida law that raised from 18 to 21 the age to purchase rifles and other long guns has ramped up this month, with attorneys for the National Rifle Association and state officials trying to discredit each others’ expert witnesses.

One of the legal quarrels involves Pradeep Bhide, a Florida State University College of Medicine professor who has spent nearly four decades as a developmental neuroscientist. The state is paying Bhide $500 per hour to testify as an expert on adolescent brain development.

In a report filed with the court, Bhide said the Florida law makes sense because “different parts of the brain mature at different times.”

“Brain regions that exercise voluntary control over our actions develop at a slower pace compared to brain regions associated with emotional and impulsive actions,” Bhide wrote in the 12-page report. “Thus, a developmental ‘mismatch’ emerges within the brain during development,”

The “mismatch” is “particularly pronounced in adolescence … and it fades away in adults, by 21 years of age,” he wrote.

“In other words, certain human behaviors that we perceive as the actions of a ‘mature’ or ‘adult’ individual emerge, on average, at 21 years of age,” he wrote. “Delaying gun purchase until 21 years of age can offer the cognitive brain the ‘extra’ time needed to be able to exert adequate control over emotional and impulsive behaviors.”

Now, Bhide is an expert. Even if I disagree with his statements, his credentials are clear.

And yet, what we see with his report is that people under the age of 21 are impulsive and rash, that they may not be able to discern the long-term impact of their actions.

So, why do we let them vote, again?

I’m serious. Voting is one of the more important duties we have as Americans and it creates a massive impact on not just Americans in the present but future generations as well. Yet Dr. Bhide makes it clear that their brains aren’t fully developed enough to control emotional and impulsive behaviors and that impacts just who they vote for, creating potential problems for decades after an election is over.

In other words, this exact same argument can be used to take away the right to vote from people ages 18-20.

Funny how that works, ain’t it?

Now, do I think we need to do any such thing? Well, yes and no. I do think that if someone is old enough to exercise their rights, they’re old enough to exercise all of their rights. Not just the ones certain people approve of. If you’re going to preserve the right to vote, then you need to preserve the right to keep and bear arms.

It should be noted, however, that the bulk of the military is made up of people within this same age range and we don’t have any massive problems there, even while deployed and required to carry a firearm with them everywhere they go, even to the bathroom. This suggests Dr. Bhide’s evaluation, while perhaps technically accurate, is incomplete at best.

If people aged 18 and up are going to be considered adults, then treat them like adults. It’s just that simple.