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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.

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  1. Many have fought and died for this country prior to the age of 21.

    If you are old enough to be called up by the government and given a weapon to defend yourself and your country, you are old enough to carry one to defend yourself as an individual.

    • and you should be allowed to have a firearm on the base that you are stationed. But that is a different discussion. Still pisses me off!

    • I don’t think 21 is the legal age federally. The Youth Handgun Safety Act pamphlet put out by the ATF/DOJ still says 18 and many a police depts up north allow you to become a police officer at 18…

  2. Well, I can’t go along with that. That “significant portion” is also known as gang-bangers, who are all armed, 16 or whatever, legal or not, and I see no reason to change our laws to cater to gang-bangers. There may be reasons to change the laws, or at least the ages, but that ain’t among them. Try “if you can vote and go to war for this country, you should be able to drink, smoke, or carry a sidearm without discrimination between you and your elders.”

    • 21 year old gang bangers generally don’t go to the trouble to get a proper CCW license (I’d like to see even a single verified example of such) , what makes you think that will change if it becomes an option for the 18 year old ones?

        • I argue from the fact that most murders and violent crime in this country is gang/drug related. If there’s any one segment of the population we should worry most about getting guns, it’s gang members, regardless of age. It’s also the one that laws, rather than actual interdiction, will do the least to counter.

    • You seem to forget that they don’t just carry guns. They use them. To hurt people. Making one action legal while keeping the other illegal won’t make us pandering to them.

  3. Females ages 16 to 21 are prime targets for sexual assaults which often in end in their death.
    Stop sexual assaults! Remove a burden from the legal system! Arm the women!

    • I can’t argue with that. I bet we could all agree that 18 should be the floor, if not lower. But there is going to be a cost associated with 16 as the floor, I don’t know how significant it would be, but there would be one. Seems like a question an informed populace should address, but our politicians and rabble rousers won’t even let us become informed, much less decide for ourselves.

  4. I’m 18 and find it insane that I can walk into a gun store and purchase an AR, but have to wait three years before I can pick out my first 1911. How does that make any sense. My best option for self-defense right now is a knife, and I’m technically not supposed to even carry that on campus.

    • Son, I’ve related this before here, but you probably weren’t present, so try this. In the late 1980s I was an AF pilot working in Okinawa (ie, not in the US), and going home one night I noticed the enlisted guard at the gate to our AF base was carrying an M-16 instead of the usual Beretta M9. Somewhat concerned, I asked if there was an unusual threat of any kind I should know about. He looked embarrassed, then explained that no, it was just he wasn’t 21 yet, so he couldn’t have a sidearm, had to carry a machine gun while on duty instead of a 9mm. And we weren’t even inside the US. These laws make *NO* sense.

    • I’m in the same situation. I’m not really thinking about CC right now but I’m certain I would consider it next year in college when a 19 year old can’t legally concealed carry…

      Age barrier to everything should be 18. If certain parents don’t want their kids drinking that early, it’s their job to teach their kids that. Judging by the amount of drunk teenagers I wouldn’t say that the drinking age has stopped anyone from getting alcohol.

      On the same token, restricting pistol purchases to 21 has not stopped gang violence. They obviously have a black market of straw purchased, stolen, and smuggled firearms that no one has or will be able to stop.

    • Spoooghett, you may want to consider getting a Kel-tec Sub2000 and a tennis racket bag or similar.



  5. I think legal adulthood should be the limit for everything. Alcohol, voting, gun-ownership of any type. If you’re old enough to make your way in the world you are old enough to CCW a handgun.

    Under 18? Gets kind of sticky. Every child is different and there are vast differences in maturity even at 18 and even moreso younger.

    That said, I think gun SAFETY can be taught early. Just because you don’t think your kid isn’t old enough to shoot doesn’t mean they aren’t old enough to understand what firearms are. What they are for, the possible dangers, and the proper procedure should they come across one. Hell, I had my kids cleaning guns even when one of them was too young to go to the range. That de-mystified firearms for him and made it less of a forbidden object.

    The biggest problem with MDA and other anti-gun groups is they are making are children less safe by keeping them ignorant of firearms. There are too many guns out there to pretend like they don’t exist, regardless of how you feel about them.

  6. Article is incorrect, ttag.

    You only need be 21 to buy from dealer, not private sales.

    Also, 5 states give carry permits to 18+ and 25 allow unlicensed open carry of handguns by 18+

    Ive been carrying since I was 18, legally.

      • Whoda thunk it? Anyone who lives in a free-ish state, like Indiana. Open carry (with permit) AND carry at 18. And lifetime permits, no renewal required.

        Feels good to be free. Mayhap one day you Texans can know what that’s like 😛

        In case it ain’t clear (text can be like that), I’m just givin’ you a hard time.

    • Yeah, I just moved to MO and had to retake a CCW class, there were several 19 year olds in the class because MO just lowered the CCW age to 19. The stupid bit is that they had to have family members purchase handguns for them as gifts…

    • Yes, Arizona allows open carry at 18 but you need to be 21 to carry concealed, with or without a permit. My nephew has to open carry for now. It doesn’t make sense to me, but that is the law here.

    • Personally, I prefer concealed carry for my edc and I decided to stick to the lowest common denominator for simplicity’s sake but you’re right, some states are a little more free than others

  7. Safety and self defense needs to be taught from grade one. There are monsters in the world and sadly our children do need to be aware of them and taught age appropriate ways to recognize and deal with them.

    Safe firearm handling and use, as well as lawful defense of self and others and the responsibility that carries should be taught starting in middle school with advancing levels throughout high school. Parental ownership of the firearms, as with cars where the parents insurance covers the child until age 18. Successful completion of required courses and range time gets you a carry ticket. If you can smoke, vote, and serve in the military at 18, and also be tried as an adult in our very criminal justice system then you should be able to buy, own, and carry a handgun.

    Eddie Eagle, where have you gone?

  8. Maybe at 16 they could get a learners permit. Parents have to sign off on it and they can only carry condition 3 until they turn 18.

  9. Then the laws in most states prohibit anyone from carrying where many 18-21 year olds spend most of their time, college campuses. We need more states to allow campus carry.

  10. The older I get, the more history books I read, and the more I read current news, the more I believe that kids need to learn marksmanship and safe gun handling in high school. Crime may be going down in the US, but the world as a whole is becoming a very dangerous place. Marksmanship is not just a fun sport, it is an essential survival skill.

  11. “Try “if you can vote and go to war for this country, you should be able to drink, smoke, or carry a sidearm without discrimination between you and your elders.””

    I’m “elder” and that makes some good sense to me.

  12. Speaking for myself – I was not mature enough to handle a car at age 16…

    I was in several fender benders from age 15 until 18. Mostly because I let my attention wander while driving, no serious injuries; but that was sheer dumb luck.

    18 though; as other said, can vote – can join the military; adults should be adult.

  13. It’s well-understood now that the frontal cortex of the brain, responsible for decisionmaking, is still developing into a person’s 20’s. This is part of why people over the age of about 25 regard many of the things they did when they were between 15 and 20 as having been stupid, but many fewer people over the age of 35 have the same feelings about their years between 25 and 30.

    I generally dislike most laws and regulations, but this is a place where giving people who have biologically bad judgment further slack to make irreversible decisions using that bad judgment probably isn’t a good idea IMHO.

    And 16 to 25 year olds’ collective driving record makes it hard to argue on their behalf here. There’s a reason why car insurance rates drop at 25.

    But then again, I don’t think 18 year-olds should be able to vote.

    • It just dawned on me that removing 18-24 yr. olds from the voter list would have changed a few recent elections for the better. 🙂

  14. I am all for extending full firearms rights to anyone once they reach the age of majority or are emancipated from their parent/guardian. The only reason I would restrict below the age of majority/pre-emancipation is because of liability for the parents. Once you are legally liable as an adult for for your actions then you should have full freedom to make and responsibility for those choices.

    Perhaps this is where the argument for licensed carry belongs, with in the realm of minors. Adults should be able to exercise their rights unencumbered and we have accepted that there is a general age at which full enfranchisement and responsibility comes upon a person. (All snark about the nanny state aside.) The converse of that being that below that age parental guidance is required and appropriate. With that in mind full constitutional carry open or concealed for anyone over the age of 18 and licensed carry, open or concealed, for anyone below the age of 18 with parental consent.

  15. Why is 16 a magic number? Why not 15, or 12? Don’t you trust a responsible, smart 12 year old more than a irresponsible, stupid 20 year old? Drivers in FL can get a restricted license at 15. Why can’t they carry at that age?

    Teenagers can vote and serve in the military. Frankly, I’m against the former and in favor of the latter. Service can be good for teenagers, but the fact that they may be adept at shooting insurgents doesn’t necessarily mean that they can handle a concealed pistol at home. Maybe they can, but maybe they can’t.

    Age restrictions are very rough judgments. Unfortunately, rough judgments are sometimes the best we can do.

  16. I got my LTC just after I turned 18. Once that beautiful pink piece of parer arrived I cut along the dotted line, laminated it and went to the gun store to buy my first handgun.

    I bought handguns at two different gun stores before I turned 21. In Indiana background checks aren’t required for LTC holders and wether by convention or oversight the gun stores I bought from didn’t pay attention to the Federal age limit.

    It wasn’t until many years later that I realized their “mistake?”.

    So an 18 year old was walking around (on campus no less) with a semi-illegally purchased handgun and nothing happened.

    BTW: I’d much rather my children carry at 16 & drive at 21 than vice versa.

  17. When my daughter turned 7 I purchased a 410 break action shotgun for her (though I still retain ownership it as it’s illegal in my state to own a firearm under the age of 18). She’s learning the basics with a 22lr sub-caliber insert and soon I’ll upgrade her to some low recoil shot shells. When she has mastered it I’ll start her on a 22lr hand gun and move her up to a 9mm and then to whatever she chooses. I refuse to allow my daughter to ever be a victim.

  18. Wow, tough one. Good arguments for and against above.

    What if the law were to allow those 18-21 who are currently in or have been honorably discharged from the military to be able to get their CCW and purchase a handgun? This would get more youth into the military. Good thing in my opinion.

    However, if you are dishonorably discharged, then you cannot get your CCW or purchase a handgun till you’re 27 (Why 27?…..see below). This way you disincentivise those who just get in for the wrong reasons or who don’t put in the full commitment.

    On the same note AND in the same law, we should make you ineligible for a CCW or handgun purchase till you’re 27 if you are still on your mommy and daddy’s Obamacare-required medical insurance plan. If you’re not mature enough at 26 years of age to realize medical coverage is your responsibility, then you’re certainly not mature enough to conceal carry a weapon.

  19. I would like to see high school diploma or equivalent as the requirement prior to 21 age. That way we would still not see high school students carry but would see and encourage college carry. Drop outs are more likely to have other problems that bring their judgement into question, but certainly a ged would also fix that problem.

    • That’s as completely arbitrary as an age limit.

      Not all HS graduates are equivalently responsible.

      The public education system does not have the most exemplary track record in determining such things…suspending honor students for having a plastic knife sort of thing. Why make them ostensibly “in charge” of who can carry and who can’t?

      (Also…could see that as a mechanism for MUCH abuse – “they” control who gets a diploma by means of controlling how gets to carry? No thanks).


  20. I’m 19 and I can legally open carry a loaded handgun here in Colorado, but the minute I want to throw a jacket on over it, I’m committing a felony. Insane.

  21. You can carry concealed at the age of 16 in Vermont. I have not heard of a single incident where a 16 year old with no previous criminal record suddenly flipped out while carrying concealed. And you can acquire a concealed carry license at the age of 18 in Indiana. Again, I am not hearing about incidents with 18 year old concealed carriers acting criminally.

    Those two states alone show us that people as young as 16 can be very responsible with concealed handguns.

  22. In Washington State its now a mot point anyway. Hand a deer rifle to your 16 year old
    and you get to be a felony….. This tread to me is about kids learning responsibility
    and for many of us it was not a learners permit to drive the folks car but your 1st 22
    rifle or shotgun (it was for me). Anti-gun drones and statists understand the need
    to stop this very very well. I594 is what this is all about….cutting off and criminalizing
    any firearms use.

  23. In all 50 states someone who is 18 is legally an adult. They can vote, own property, execute legal contracts, marry, divorce, etc….

    Why anyone got the idea that 18 years olds weren’t yet ‘adult enough’ to drink is, to me at least, totally asinine.

    Same goes for firearms.

    If you are adult enough at 18 to go to war or get married then you are adult enough to carry a firearm.

  24. I know a 12 year old I’d trust to conceal carry, I know a 36 year old I’d never trust near any of my firearms, loaded or not.

    Each individual is different. I am not the biggest fan of blanket ban age restrictions for the most part for much of anything.

  25. My solution is simple:

    Teach Eddie Eagle beginning in first grade. Introduce single-shot .22 long guns in sixth grade and have a range at the school — everyone has to shoot and learn safety. Advance to semi-auto long guns and .22 revolvers in middle school. High school, everything is on the table for training in safety and use.

    If at any point a student excels in both safety and use, that student can get a “solo carry” license, to be issued on request. But the solo license comes with extra responsibility; using a firearm in a crime when you have it is itself a crime.

    Of course each middle school and high school should have a shooting team. And to encourage the “military virtues”, every student who letters in shooting gets a free firearm of the sort he/she lettered with, and everyone who was on the team gets the same on graduation.

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