So when does an adult become an adult?

Calls by several groups and individuals (including President Trump) to raise the legal age for purchasing a firearm to 21 are making headlines at present.  The problem is, buying a gun is just one part of being an adult, and it’s neither the most risky nor the most politically awkward one.

At the same time, some are calling for the voting age to be reduced to 16.  Tell me;  if someone’s not mature enough to own a gun until they’re 21, what makes you think they’ll be mature enough to vote – arguably a far graver responsibility – when they’re 16?  Riddle me that!

There are all sorts of milestones associated with the transition from youth to adulthood and/or maturity:

  • The age at which one can obtain an unrestricted driver’s license;
  • The age at which one can legally buy and/or consume alcohol;
  • The age of consent to sexual intercourse;
  • The age at which one can buy a firearm (currently split in many jurisdictions, with long guns – rifles and shotguns – legal to buy at 18, but handguns not legal until 21);
  • The age at which one can vote;
  • The age at which one can hold elected office (often varying according to the office);
  • and many more.

I propose that we identify a single age at which any or all of the above age-related rights can be enacted.  If the US military can train enlistees at the age of 17 or 18 to use a firearm, and issue one to them as a matter of routine, and if police academies can qualify recruits in firearms and send them to law enforcement agencies who will issue them a gun for daily carry, why should civilians of the same age not be allowed to buy and own a gun?  If you’re old enough to have sex, why shouldn’t you be allowed to drive a car (which can be as lethal a weapon as a firearm, under the wrong circumstances)?  If you’re old enough to vote, why aren’t you old enough to hold elected office?

Let’s determine an age at which it’s both safe and reasonable to permit and/or encourage any and/or all of the above activities, and use that across the board.  At age X, you can have sex, drink, buy a gun, drive a car, vote, be elected, whatever.  Anything less is merely a patchwork of nonsensically contradictory variations on whether or not one’s an adult.

(There is, of course, the problem of those who’ll never learn to be responsible adults, no matter what their age.  I’ve met more than a few of them.  What to do with them?  Maybe, if their conduct – particularly criminal conduct – demonstrates an ongoing inability to behave like an adult and a civilized human being, we should take away all of their adult rights.  Just a thought.)



  1. I have a simpler solution:

    You gain majority when no-one can claim you as a dependent. No age limitation. You go sign a document at the court house, which affirms that status and a copy goes to the SSA and IRS so your social security number. First time is easy.

    I'd also expand upon that by letting an individual resume dependency. Normal dependency rules apply: your income counts against your sponsor, the sponsor gets a dependency credit, he files the taxes. You can't vote, hold office, enter into contracts without consent of the sponsor, and only own firearms with the consent and constrains your sponsor provides (in writing, subject to regulation). If you've returned to dependency, you can exit it by showing a budget (income versus outgoings) which permits you to live independently.

  2. The variations in legal age are to a degree driven by the progressive left who infest so much of our society, media, education, and politics.
    They want younger voters as they operate more on feelings and are thus easier to manipulate.
    Age restrictions on firearms on the other hand are merely a stopgap along the path to their ultimate goal of a totally disarmed citizenry dependent on government for protection. With of course the assumption that they will be the ones controlling that government and commanding its armed forces.

  3. At one time, I would have been against raising the age to 21. Unfortunately, schools are turning out such snowflakes anymore that three more years MIGHT be of some help. However, I think ALL things should be set at 21 then, including voting, driving and military service.

  4. It is simple if you are old enough to go an fight for your country, you are old enough to vote, drink, have sex and buy firearms.

  5. The intent on this is to break the generational chain between shooters, so that the younger generation isn't going to pick up the interest.

    What's going to backfire is the whole "forbidden fruit" aspect that turns someone who might be a casual drinker into a binge-drinking alcoholic, because they go out of control once they do get access to that which was forbidden.

    I'm not a huge fan of set age limits on anything. Some kids I know were probably fine for drinking when they were ten; others? Never. Same with guns–There are adults I know who I would never trust with the things, and there are kids I'd happily entrust with a machinegun.

    The problem with any of this shit is the hard-and-fast rules on age and access are simply excuses not to think, or teach. "Oh, it's too hard to set a responsible example and allow you to learn about alcohol in a non-threatening way in the family home…", so we force it into hiding, while wondering why the kids are binge-drinking.

    You think about it, the whole thing makes limited to no sense. Why wouldn't you want your kids to learn about how to handle alcohol in a non-threatening, safe environment?

    Of course, that's entirely against the Puritan impulse that's still prevalent in our society, in oh-so-many-ways. Forbid, and then wonder why the forbidden has such allure.

    I note the Europeans have a much healthier attitude towards sex and alcohol, in a lot of ways, than we do. Old enough to stick your hand over the bar and pay for it…? Why, sure, son… Here's your beer.

    I think a huge part of why we're seeing so much "trouble with the kids" these days is the entirely artificial and mind-destroying adolescence we've forced them into enduring. The shooter was 19, fercrissakes… Why was he still in school? He obviously didn't have either the interest or the knack for it, so why was he still forced to go there? And, you wonder why he shot the place up, after years of having his nose rubbed in his intellectual/social inferiority? Huh. Surprise, surprise, surprise…

    My take on this whole thing is that you ought to be considered an adult when you start doing adult things responsibly. For some of us, that might be age 13, 14, 15… For others? Maybe never. In any event, the age requirement is a travesty, especially if we can draft your ass at 18, and you have to register for that. Old enough to be drafted, old enough to vote, buy weapons, drink, f**k, or whatever else marks adulthood, for you. Anything else is morally wrong.

  6. I'd vote for 18, unless you are talking about drinking. There I'd say 15 and up if in the company of adults, otherwise 21, which is closer to the current European laws as I understand them (can drink at home at any age, can drink in public at age 14 if with adults, otherwise 16-18 depending on country.)

    LittleRed1 AKA Speaker at Teenagers

  7. Eighteen is a good age. It worked in the past, and will always work, as long as that's the same age you can't be claimed on your parent's insurance. Adulthood requires responsibility, and mandating the continued coddling of young adults doesn't help that happen.

  8. One useful tool would be to cause juvenile crime convictions to bump the age for all to 21. If you accept that juvenile crime is often caused by lack of maturity, then it seems beneficial to delay legal adult status for troubled youth.

  9. I just read a paragraph in a novel* that struck a chord with me:

    "Maturity is not something that happens all at once. It is not a border between two countries where once you cross the invisible line, you are on the new soil of adulthood, speaking the foreign tongue of grown-ups. It is more like a distant broadcast, and you are driving toward it, and sometimes you can barely make it out through the hiss of static while other times the reception momentarily clears and you can pick up the signal with perfect clarity."
    * Strange Weather, by Joe Hill, page 32.

    Not sure how that applies to this discussion, but I thought it an accurate metaphor for the topic.

  10. Depending on location, activity, and office the current age range for this list is 14-35. Based on what we know about human development, 18-21 seems like a good range for most things, perhaps 25 for holding most offices. A process for age exceptions in both directions might be a good thing.

  11. If you can't be trusted to buy a rifle, then you shouldn't be able to join the military without parental permission and even then not be in a deployable combat role until 21. Similarly with police. No field deployment until 21.

  12. Repeal the 26th amendment. Then lobby your state to set the voting age 24. That should give the Progressive stupidity inculcated in high school and college a bit of time to clear up.

  13. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have the impression that the 18 for a long gun/21 for a handgun rule is federal law.

  14. Unless Texas does something different, I've never heard of any state allowing licensing for Peace Officers under the age of 21.

  15. Of course, some age restrictions for office would require a Constitutional amendment to change – 25 for the House, 30 for the Senate, and 35 for POTUS.

    In general, though, I agree, that there should be one age at which a person is, by (legal) default, considered a legal adult and full citizen, entitled to all of the privileges and immunities thereof.

    I say "default" because, if one can meet the legals standards to be an 'emancipated minor' then one should also be considered a legal adult and full citizen.

  16. The history on the slightly-quirky age-related-dichotomy on firearms of rifle/shotgun (i.e., "long gun") O.K. at 18, pistol/revolver (i.e., "handgun") O.K. at 21 is an artifact of FedGov law, dating from the notorious original Gun Control Act Of 1968, as carried forward through numerous add-ons, amendments, expansions and miscellaneous addenda…it was originated primarily due to the excessive (to some) concern in the mid-to-late 60's over the alleged* prevalence of handguns – especially cheap, relatively-small and easily-concealed ones – in the gun-crime stats of that era…long guns were looked on, generally, as "safer – far less likely to be used improperly" – and therefore as "permissible" for an 18-year-old to own. It was considered then that handguns should be allowed for purchase/ownership only for those 21 and older.

    This has had some odd effects, particularly in locales where the age limit for hiring of some police officers and armed guards is only 18 – most often, in the case of some State and County police forces. There have been instances on record where new Police Academy-graduates who were only 19 or 20 years old had to have their "personally-owned/purchased service sidearms" actually-bought and (on the books) legally-"possessed" by a parent or other "responsible adult", and only carried by the new officer(s) while actually on-duty.

    Just one more (relatively-minor) instance of the rather-arbitrary defining of "adulthood"…

    *Quite likely the fact then – and even more so now. It's only in relatively-quite-recent times that any sort of long gun has figured much in criminal activities in the U.S., as compared to the number of instances of handgun usage.

  17. I object to having a one-size-fits-all age for everything. US Senators should not be 18, and the President should not even be 21.

    13 for working part time. 16 for full time work, beer, wine, driving, and long guns. 18 for liquor and pistols, signing contracts, and owning property. 21 for voting. 25 for municipal/county public office. 30 for US Representative or State public office. 35 for US Senator or State Governor. 40 for US President.

  18. Of course we could have the wonks at the Department of Education write a set of qualification tests for each of those privileges. Pass the test and get the privilege. This should include running for office. I can just imagine the wording on some of the questions.

  19. nono writes:

    "It is simple if you are old enough to go an fight for your country, you are old enough to vote, drink, have sex and buy firearms."

    So you're saying that the great majority of people should never be allowed to do these things.

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