“The constitution shall never be construed ... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” ― Alexander Hamilton
This quote has more meaning today than ever before. The sad truth, however, is that in some jurisdictions, we’re heading in that direction as more gun control laws are proposed and passed. Since the Parkland, Fla., tragedy, anti-gun advocates have pushed a number of gun control proposals, some new, some old. One proposal that has garnered attention in a number of state legislatures is to restrict the age of firearm purchase and possession to those who have reached 21. Federal law currently restricts handgun purchases to 21; for long guns (shotguns and rifles), it is 18.
A handful of states are debating whether the 21-year-old age limitation should be extended to long guns, with Florida passing such legislation last month and Illinois currently considering the move. The NRA immediately challenged the Florida law in federal court as a clear abridgment of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens ages 18-20.
But while this challenge weaves its way through the courts, what do these proposals mean for the current population of 18- to 20-year-olds who already own a long gun or rifle?
As usual, many of the proposals to strip those under 21 of their firearms freedom are long on acrimony but short on detail. In some cases, like the bill under consideration in Illinois, anyone under 21 would be required to turn in currently held firearms or transfer ownership. Failure to do so would result in criminal penalties. Other states are considering grandfathering in lawfully possessed firearms. It’s anyone’s guess what the final language of many of these wrongheaded bills will hold. But one thing is clear, if you reside in a state where such a proposal is under consideration, you’d better make your views known loud and clear before final action is taken.
Teens who can lawfully buy guns today are likely to find themselves in a gray area of the law as some states are in various stages of trying to raise the buying age to 21. The question of whether guns will have to be turned in or whether the young adult owners will be covered by a grandfathering clause is dependent on each state's legislation.
These age-restriction bills are a particularly insidious form of gun control, and all are being rushed through the process before gun owners and other freedom-loving citizens have a chance to voice their concerns. We often lament the too-deliberate speed of the legislative process and the failure to “get something done” in quick fashion, but the democratic process was never meant to create policy at break-neck speed. The constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, no matter their age, deserve a full and fair hearing before they are thrown on the ash-heap of history. This is the great design of our constitutional republic.
Why not restrict firearm purchase or possession based on age? This is a rhetorical question of course, but one could ask the same question of any number of other completely arbitrary reasons to restrict the constitutional rights of Americans. The anti-gun crowd argues public safety, but their object is to continually hammer away at our constitutional right until there is nothing left. If they succeed in convincing the public that everyone under the age of 21 is a public safety menace, there is no logical reason why that cannot be extended to 25 tomorrow. And once you get the American public comfortable with restricting our freedoms in one way, the next arbitrary classification is all the easier to put in place.
The horror of the Parkland shooting can never be erased. But unfortunately, this tragedy is being used to push an agenda that many Americans do not agree with, so long as they are given the time to consider the implications of the immense reach of what’s under consideration.
So, what can we do? Make your voice heard. We cannot sit back and let the illogical ideals of the anti-gun community to force the states to enact such far-reaching proposals. We cannot allow our rights to be destroyed one step at a time. Call your state representatives and let them know you are not only aware of what they are doing, but willing to stand up and protect your rights.These laws will not stop tragedy from happening. They accomplish nothing more than to strip the constitutional rights of an entire segment of society based on the terrible misdeeds of one individual. And they prime the American public to expect “action” that has nothing to do with keeping our communities safe. Our Constitution demands much more than this.