Why 21?

This is a discussion on Why 21? within the The Second Amendment & Gun Legislation Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; I've been curious lately why most states require you to be 21 to buy a handgun or handgun ammo. You can buy a rifle or ...

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Thread: Why 21?

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    Distinguished Member Array C9H13NO3's Avatar
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    Why 21?

    I've been curious lately why most states require you to be 21 to buy a handgun or handgun ammo. You can buy a rifle or shotgun at 18, and it seems kind of like a violation of your second amendment rights to say you can't own a handgun as a legal adult until 21. I can kind of understand making the drinking age 21, as we don't have a constitutionally given "right to buy and drink alcohol".

    Is it because there are so many 18yos still in high school? Even then, it shouldn't really matter. Just some of my pondering.
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    Member Array Bhamrichard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by C9H13NO3 View Post
    I've been curious lately why most states require you to be 21 to buy a handgun or handgun ammo.
    Never understood it myself. It doesn't make any sense that while in military service at 18 you can fire off full automatics or launch cruise missiles, but you can't buy a .22 for yourself. There are many places in federal, state and local laws where age disparity is the norm.

    Using Alabama law as an example, the age of consent for sexual encounters is 16, you can get your drivers license at 16, buy a firearm at 18 from an individual and legally carry it OC, are legally an adult at 19, but you can't buy beer, get a CCW permit, or buy a handgun/ammo from a dealer til your 21.

    Presumably, the 21 standard was setup in the hopes that at 21 each person would be on a more mature level to be able to handle firearms more responsibly.

    All the inconsistencies have been baffling to me for years.

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    Age of majority

    Quote Originally Posted by C9H13NO3 View Post
    I've been curious lately why most states require you to be 21 to buy a handgun or handgun ammo. You can buy a rifle or shotgun at 18, and it seems kind of like a violation of your second amendment rights to say you can't own a handgun as a legal adult until 21. I can kind of understand making the drinking age 21, as we don't have a constitutionally given "right to buy and drink alcohol".

    Is it because there are so many 18yos still in high school? Even then, it shouldn't really matter. Just some of my pondering.
    You are sort of right that these age cut offs are inconsistent.

    Eighteen is the age of majority but not for drinking, not for buying guns. Years back, 21 was the age of majority but you could get conscripted at 18. You were adult enough to get your life risked against your will, and no one called that child abuse-- which it was.

    Our legislators and our courts have been quite inconsistent, for a variety of reasons, mostly related to the conscription issue of the distant past and to alcohol use today, and the problem of inconsistency really needs to be fixed.

    My own preference would be to return the age of majority to 21 for everything, but make it much easier for younger people to "emancipate" themselves.

    Let me put it this way. When I was 18 I saw no reason why someone 18 shouldn't be considered an "adult." Now that I am 67
    I'm not even sure I want to consider people under 35 adults. I'm willing to compromise--- 21, the way it was for about the first two hundred years of our history.

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    Distinguished Member Array C9H13NO3's Avatar
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    I agree that 18 hardly constitutes an adult by mental/emotional/maturity standards, but I thought that by the legal standard, that was adult. I never knew about the 21 being an adult and going to war as a "child/minor". Interesting insight.
    -Ryan

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    Senior Member Array usmc3169's Avatar
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    Some studies have shown that most people aren't able to make decisions with a full understanding of consequences until they are 25 years of age(ish).

    we recruit military members who are young enough to go into firefight thinking "it wont happen to ME" (I know I was one of those guys). I know now at age 30(ish) I would be a LOT less gung ho to race into some of the situations I was in in Iraq as a small unit leader at age 21/22. I remember that even then as a 22 y/o that the 18 y/o privates seemed really immature... :-).

    not sure what that rambling had to do with the discussion at hand - but yes strange age disparrity.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

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    Handguns are easily concealable therefore they want you to be older before being able to easily obtain one.

    Rifles/shotguns, go hunting.

    Handguns, they don't want 18 year olds having.
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    I believe most states just followed Federal guidelines. Federal rules say 21 for handguns and 18 for long guns.
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    VIP Member Array varob's Avatar
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    21 seems to be the magic number.

    What I really want to know is why I have to, with graying hair and wrinkling face, still show the lady at Walmart my ID when buying ammo?
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    It depends on the state though. Here in Arizona it is legal for an 18-year-old to own and even purchase a handgun. It's against federal law for a FFL to sell them one, and against federal law for a FFL to sell them ammo, but not against state law. Face to face private sales are legal, so you'll occasionally see someone in that age bracket either get a handgun from a relative or buy it off teh intarwebz. So every so often you will find someone carrying who is 18-20. Open Carry is legal here, and CCW in AZ requires a person to be 21.
    "...whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one." (Luke 22:36)
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    Distinguished Member Array Der Alte's Avatar
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    For all you young guys - back in the day you had to be 21 to be considered a man. The laws allowing you to drink alcohol was changed to 18 during the Vietnam war. If they required you to be smart and responsible the age of majority might go up to 40 or 50. :)
    Its a shame that youth is wasted on the young.

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    VIP Member Array chiefjason's Avatar
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    In NC you can own a handgun IF you can convince the sheriff to give you a purchase permit and buy it from an individual. The 21 age is across the board for purchasing a handgun from an FFL. An 18 yr old can also possess a handgun to OC, even if it is loaned to them. How LEO's view it is another story, but there is no law preventing it.

    Add to your list 25 yrs old to rent a car, IIRC.
    I prefer to live dangerously free than safely caged!

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    Senior Member Array Shadowsbane's Avatar
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    Arbitrary numbers. Much like the 18 inch restriction for the barrels of shotguns.

    They did them that way beacause they wanted to.
    Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.

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    I seem to recall that our Constitution specifies you have to be 25 to be elected to The House, 30 to be elected to The Senate, and 35 to be elected to the Presidency. For about the first 200 years of our country's life 21 was the age of majority and that made some sense--- you were no longer a teenager and the age of majority was set a few years less than that needed to become a "critter."

    There were a lot of social forces which came together to bring the age of majority down. The popular understanding is that it was to give the vote to people who were old enough to be conscripted. A lesser known theme was that most college administrators wanted to shed from their shoulders the responsibility for looking after legal minors.

    If you were a college prez, and the place had dorms, it was much less trouble for you to "manage" those if you didn't have to serve as a parent/guardian for
    the people renting room and board.

    The colleges loved it when the age of majority was dropped to 18. Goodbye and good riddance to the full measure of responsibility for what happened to the kids at school.

    usmc3169 is correct about what he wrote: "Some studies have shown that most people aren't able to make decisions with a full understanding of consequences until they are 25 years of age(ish)."

    In my case it took a few years more.

    Abbey Hoffman's famous "don't trust anyone over 30" has a whole new look from up here in the 60s.

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    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
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    The age laws on these subjects are anything but consistent. You can vote at 18, you can buy tobacco, you can sell your body, you can go to war, you can be tried as an adult in court, you can be married, and on and on.

    But, you can't drink, can't buy a handgun, with which to defend your family. No sense at all
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

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    Member Array Wiggity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zacii View Post
    The age laws on these subjects are anything but consistent. You can vote at 18, you can buy tobacco, you can sell your body, you can go to war, you can be tried as an adult in court, you can be married, and on and on.

    But, you can't drink, can't buy a handgun, with which to defend your family. No sense at all

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