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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

When does adulthood start?

Here's any idea that will infuriate everyone but might do some good: Let's make 21 the official age of adulthood in America. No buying guns 'til 21. No voting 'til 21. No being charged as an adult 'til 21. No getting drafted 'til 21. Who's in? — Michael Petrilli (@MichaelPetrilli) May 31, 2022

“Why do we let children buy guns?,” asks Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post. “In Uvalde, Buffalo and Parkland, the killings were carried out with guns that were legally purchased by the shooters themselves. What rational society allows that?”

The Uvalde shooter reportedly used an AR-15-style DDM4 rifle made by Daniel Defense.

Raising the minimum purchase age for long guns presumes “that 18-to-20-year-olds, unlike older adults, do not have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, writes Jacob Sullum on Reason. “Two federal appeals courts recently rejected that proposition, citing a long tradition of gun ownership by young adults.”

The minimum age for buying handguns from federally licensed dealers (but not private sellers) is 21, he writes. For shotguns or rifles, the federal minimum age is 18. Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, set further restrictions.

What if legal adulthood for everything starts at 21? The age of maturity is . . . Well, not 21 for most people either. But I’ll assume we can’t require a maturity test.

Kevin Teasley, president of GEO Academies and a charter school founder, suggests:

No signing for thousands of dollars in student loans until 21, too. Think of it. We have 18-year-olds signing up for thousands of dollars in student loans and they have no concept of debt and how expensive it will be.

I tweeted:

If students couldn’t borrow till 21, more would start at community college (few cc students take out loans), but far fewer would make it to 4-yr colleges. Would that be OK? Those who did would be more mature, motivated, etc.

Teasley responded:

I think if college loans were restricted, it might push the public to demand more for their K12 $$. Our Gary, Indy and Baton Rouge students earn associate degrees while in high school at no cost to them—a savings of $50k, plus they are more mature and ready to complete college.

GEO schools, such as 21st Century Charter in Gary, Indiana, offer early college programs that enable high school students to earn community college credits, certifications and associate degrees at no cost.

Two years, John Rodgers, a Vermont state senator, proposed raising the minimum age for cellphone use to 21, reported Maria Cramer in the New York Times.

“In light of the dangerous and life-threatening consequences of cellphone use by young people, it is clear that persons under 21 years of age are not developmentally mature enough to safely possess them,” he wrote.

A gun rights advocate, Rodgers was mocking a 2018 Vermont law banning the sale of firearms to most people under 21.

“There are all these pushes around some parts of the country for 16-year-olds to vote but we’re saying they’re not mature enough to smoke or purchase a gun. So which is it?” said Mr. Rodgers. “When are you really an adult?”

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