By Matthew Black
Age restrictions on the right to carry don’t seem to come up very often in the discussion on self-defense but they need to. According to the FBI, a significant portion of murder victims are between the ages of 16 and 21. Currently, when a person in this age group is attacked outside the home the only way they can be defended with the ‘great equalizer’ is if a third party just so happens to be nearby and just so happens to be carrying a firearm and just so happens to be willing to risk life and limb for a stranger. (I think most of us would in that situation but my point remains.) But seeing as criminals and other predators tend to prey on isolated victims this is to say…fat chance . . .
Legally, there are two laws that prevent teens from carrying guns for self-defense. First, federal law prohibits people under the age of 21 from purchasing a handgun. Second, even in states that allow concealed carry, you must be at least 21 to get a permit where doing so is even possible. As most of us well know, these laws that I’m comfortable calling security theater do nothing to stop criminals from illegally buying or carrying guns as Chicago proves every day.
As an FFL holder and one-time gun store employee, I think that in reality, these laws (and pretty much every other gun law…don’t get me started on the theater that is NICS) are at best a barrier to entry; something that makes it more difficult for all people to exercise their inalienable right to self-defense. As Scott Adams once pointed out in regards to alcohol, there is no magic age before which people are wildly irresponsible and after which they can handle it. Responsibility is a matter of training, not age.
Now, it is safe to say that the thought of arming teenagers is not universally agreed upon even among people of the gun. But these teens are the same people who operate multi-ton death machines on a regular basis. It’s not as if teenagers are incapable of handling firearms as most of us proved when we were that age and as our children have or will prove in turn.
So why is it that many of us are hesitant to endorse teenage CCW? Do we think there will be blood in the streets? It’s not like any would-be school shooters decided not to murder their friends and teachers because they couldn’t legally conceal the gun on their way to school. Also, it’s not as if people who are capable of handling firearms at the range magically become dangers to themselves and others anywhere else.
While I’m painting with a broad brush here, you either know how to be safe with guns or you haven’t yet been taught. Should ownership by those under 21 ever be legalized, our gun culture will, given time, adjust to fostering in teenagers the mindset and training necessary to prepare them to defend themselves and others just as it has done so with each of us.
In short, the concept of allowing teenagers to exercise their inalienable right to armed self-defense begins to makes sense once we start to think and talk about it. So let’s do that. After all, it’s for the children. Even the 20-year-olds.