A number of gun rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the California law that prohibits anyone under 21 to buy a firearm. Whatever one thinks of the gun issue, the plaintiffs have a solid chance to prevail.
The case filed in San Diego argues that under the Second Amendment, every adult has a right to keep and bear arms. Yet, California has carved out an exception for a certain class of adults who otherwise have full privileges of all adults. The state recognizes that an adult is anyone over 18—except for purchasing guns.
In California an individual can sign a contract at age 18; he or she can get married at age 18, even younger with parents and courts permission, he or she can vote at 18. Some local government officials and state legislators want to lower the vote age requirement below 18.
The emotional and logical debate on whether an 18 year old can own a gun is based on the question of maturity. That same argument comes into play in the debate over lowering the voting age below 18, as well. Those advocating for lowering the voting age say young adults are wise enough to understand the world around them to vote. Yet, many advocates of lowering the voting age are for increasing the age to own a gun. How can you have it both ways? For the state to prevail in the lawsuit, it will have to convince a judge that young adults are mature enough to vote but not mature enough to own a gun.
The state may attempt to convince the court that a difference in points of maturity can be drawn. For example, at the time the debate raged over lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 during the Vietnam War period when soldiers under 18 going off to war did not have the right to vote, a newspaper editorial argued that requirements to be a good soldier and a good voter were different. While enthusiasm and physicality were necessary for a soldier, a voter needed mature judgment.
Yet, that argument seems to fall flat, especially when many of the recent gun related tragedies in this country—which are the justification behind the attempt to raise the age of gun ownership—were caused by people over 21 years old.
While the emotional argument plays a role in the debate, the court is interested in the constitutional arguments. The lawsuit challenges the California law on the basis of the Second Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Scott Lay, in his piece on this page, delves into the legal issues.
In a bit of irony, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution lowering the voting age became ratified on July 1, 1971, 48 years to the day when the California gun lawsuit was filed.
The legislators effort to raise the age to purchase guns, and in essence, raise the age of maturity in the eyes of the state on this one issue, reverses a trend when many want to see age requirements lowered.
If legislators are determine to raise the age for gun purchases on the basis of maturity, they may have to consider raising the age requirements for adults to legally function in the state.