TN bill seeks to address gun reform, juvenile justice

(AP Photo/Philip Kamrass, File)

Following the shooting at a Nashville school, Tennessee has been battling over gun control. There was even a special session meant to address the issue.

There’s also a problem with juvenile crime in the state, apparently. Tennessee isn’t unique in that regard, but for state lawmakers, it’s a problem they likely feel the need to address.


Now, a Republican lawmaker has a proposal he thinks will address both of those concerns.

It’s a bill that intersects two hot-button issues in Tennessee, juvenile justice and gun reform.

“What we found out in most active shooter things is that they’re young adults,” Rep. Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) said. “Their frontal lobes are not fully developed.”

Williams filed a new bill ahead of regular session – the first new one that could make serious changes (there were two other bills filed to make Cleveland, Tennessee, the hot slaw capital of the state and another to designate hot slaw as the official state food).

In essence, it would make it so anyone who has committed a felony or a misdemeanor of cruelty toward animals as a juvenile would be prohibited ‘from purchasing or possessing a firearm until the juvenile reaches twenty-five (25) years of age.’

“My thought was, is how can we delay – not prevent them from being able to buy a weapon in the future – but how can we delay that so there’s actually a penalty to them for committing those acts and so they can reestablish themselves?” Williams said.

First, Williams needs to understand that a right delayed is a right denied. Telling someone they cannot exercise their right for X number of years isn’t all that different from saying they can’t exercise it ever. Especially if they have a reason to fear for their life.


What’s more, it’s predicated on a favorite anti-gun talking point, namely that the frontal lobe doesn’t finish developing until the age of 25, which is why the cut-off is what it is.

Now, it’s not that this talking point is wrong. For a change, it’s factually accurate. The issue for me is, so what?

If Williams was talking about using this to establish the age of a person’s majority at 25, meaning that age would replace the age limit of 18 for most adult decisions, then we could talk. Then it would be clear that you’re arguing that the lack of development in the frontal lobe means we should extend the definition of “juvenile” further.

Instead, it’s used selectively just for guns and gun ownership.

Sure, in this case, it’s regarding people who broke certain laws as juveniles, but it still establishes the idea that gun rights are second-class rights, especially for people under the age of 25. If it also restricted voting until that age, for example, at least there would be some consistency, but there’s not.

Plus, frankly, I don’t see how this does anything for juvenile crime. I’m pretty sure that most kids who break the law aren’t thinking of the long-term consequences in the first place. I mean, that whole frontal lobe thing deals with the fact that until that part of the brain is developed, people are more impulsive. I’m pretty sure penalties a decade or more down the road aren’t going to play into their decision-making paradigm.


So on every level, this bill looks like a waste of time. My hope is that this never gets out of committee, particularly with the anti-gun provisions.

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