On Gun Issues, Stop Looking at the Outliers

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

When it comes to the right to keep and bear arms, a lot of people aren’t big fans of it. They don’t think you should have a gun, much less be able to carry it anywhere.


It’s their right to think that way. One of the most fundamental rights anyone can have is to be wrong about something and these folks do just that.

Where they irk me is that they’re not content to just stew in their own wrongness, they want to inflict that wrongness on the rest of us, and they do it by getting very loud on topics they know nothing about.

Take this letter to the editor as an example.

I watched U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland deliver a scathing 575-page report Jan. 18 on the law enforcement response during the 2022 school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

It was compelling, but failed to make the most important and focused observation. It was only afterward that the attorney representing the parents of the children who were killed brought to the forefront the gut-wrenching truth: It’s the guns, stupid!

How on Earth does an 18-year-old purchase a semi-automatic rifle, along with ammunition, and then order more ammunition online?

Well, to start with, he hadn’t been convicted of literally anything that would disqualify him from owning a gun.

Yes, we know in hindsight that he was a terrible person, but let’s also understand that every year, an untold number of 18-year-olds buy semi-automatic rifles along with ammunition and even order more online, only to never harm a living soul except in self-defense.


In fact, anti-gunners have severely reduced the options for people age 18 and over but under 21 to arm themselves for self-defense purposes. Handguns, my preferred go-to for day-to-day personal protection, are barred to those younger people via federal law.

Which leaves long guns, and most of them aren’t great for home defense either.

Some might argue that something like an AR-15 isn’t ideal, but not everyone buys into the idea that a shotgun is the end-all, be-all of such things either.

So, 18-year-olds buy semi-automatic rifles and ammunition–which is kind of important if you want to actually use the firearm.

Yet this kvetching about an 18-year-old buying a semi-auto rifle, asking just how were they able to, makes me wonder just what other rights does the letter writer believe should be kept from adults under the age of 21.

Should they be barred from voting? Enlisting in the military? Buying property? What?

If it’s none of those things, then it really isn’t about their age, is it? An 18-year-old in the military may well have access to things are more deadly than an AR-15, even if only temporarily.


Of course, despite all the rhetoric about brain development making younger people irrational, there’s no desire to change the ages for any other rights, just the right to keep and bear arms.

But the truth is that the Uvalde gunman was the outlier. He didn’t represent most people of that age. People like him make terrible headlines, but they’re not the spokesperson for an entire age category no more than the writer would accept Kyle Rittenhouse as the poster boy for gun rights.

We do not need to create laws because of the outliers. We need to address the reason these outliers exist, because the common denominator in mass murders isn’t guns, but murderers.

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