NPR asks if certain adults deserve all their rights

MikeGunner / Pixabay

Imagine a world where there was a debate about whether 18-year-olds should have the right to speak freely. Maybe a couple of people in that age group horribly misused their rights and advocate for some sketchy stuff that led to something terrible happening.

While some are talking about curtailing free speech rights across the board, some are specifically talking about it for people under the age of 21.

The idea is kind of ridiculous. While there are plenty who want to curtail the right to free speech–often people who also want to curtail the right to keep and bear arms–most aren’t really interested in going down that road.

On free speech.

But on guns, well, that’s a different matter entirely.

But one question remains: Should an 18-year-old be allowed to buy a semi-automatic rifle?

In the last couple of years, CaliforniaFlorida and Washington state have responded to the string of mass shootings by young men by raising the minimum age to buy certain kinds of rifles, such as the Bushmaster.

Gun rights groups, meanwhile, have sued, calling this a violation of young adults’ Second Amendment rights.

Last week, a panel of three federal judges in California agreed, overturning the higher minimum age approved by the state last year.

“There’s a big fight brewing over these restrictions on guns for 18, 19, and 20-year-olds because the courts are in the midst of a great expansion of Second Amendment gun rights,” says Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who writes about gun policy.

The author of the California law, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, says he hopes the state attorney general appeals the federal ruling.

“It makes sense to appeal. This is a fight worth fighting, and again, look at what happened in Buffalo,” he says. “You have to be 25 to rent a car. You have to be 21 to drink. Why would we put a semi-automatic rifle in the hands of a teenager?

First, Portantino gets it wrong on car rentals. You see, that’s generally not a law. It’s a policy that the car rental companies decided on for a variety of reasons. Plus, people under 25 rent cars all the time, but because of the statistically higher risk of car accidents, they tend to be charged a lot more.

So even here, the right to rent a car isn’t blocked by law. If it’s blocked at all, it’s by a company policy.

Now, what does that have to do with gun rights? Absolutely nothing, really.

Anti-Second Amendment types love to turn to driving or cars as an example of regulations that we really should have on firearms. Still, they never seem to grasp that while freedom to travel is a well-established right, the courts have generally found driving to be a privilege. You can go wherever you want, but driving on public roads, things are a bit different.

Because driving is a privilege, not a right, it doesn’t get afforded the same protections.

At the age of 18, we generally afford people the full slate of their rights. The only thing they can’t legally do is buy alcohol legally and run for certain political offices.

What they can do, however, is enlist in the military where they’re not issued a semi-automatic weapon, but a fully-automatic one.

Now, if you’re going to tell me no one under 21 can be trusted with a firearm, then why aren’t you advocating raising the age of enlistment.

And yes, I’m more than aware that on military bases, weapons are issued and then taken back at the end of the day. Yet we also just spent 20 years at war. In a warzone, that doesn’t happen. Service personnel are required to be armed at all times, even while using the bathroom.

How many mass shootings did we have over there?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The truth of the matter is that people either warrant their rights or they don’t. Those under the age of 21 are able to live on their own. That alone illustrates they should have their full Second Amendment rights. After all, the courts have supported the notion of the Second Amendment for home defense.

Why should these people be any different?

The truth is that there should be no question about whether people between the age of 18 and 20 should be able to enjoy their Second Amendment rights. We don’t curtail any other constitutionally protected right because of age. Why should this be different?

Or are folks like NPR ready to concede that they see the Second Amendment as a second-class right?