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Despite rising gun violence nationwide, both in mass shootings and interpersonal violence, gun reform has stalled in the United States. In the latest blow to gun control advocates, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that laws banning the sale of handguns to young adults under 21 violate the Second Amendment and are unconstitutional.
A large share of the American public supports stricter gun laws and certain gun reforms like expanded background checks and barring mentally ill people from buying guns. Boston.com readers feel that age limits should be in place as well.
We asked readers to share their reaction to the federal judge’s ruling and most of the readers polled said young adults should be restricted from buying firearms. Of the 448 people who responded to the survey, 54% of readers said the judge was wrong to decide that restricting gun sales for adults under 21 was unconstitutional.
“Eighteen-year-olds are not adults yet. They are just freshly out of high school and allowed to buy guns? Come on now! This is just a small, very small, step into making guns less accessible. There is an immediate need to ban all military-style guns, but updating historic laws is a good thing, especially for guns,” said Jay from Boston. “Americans are dying every minute by a gun whether self-inflicted or just straight murdering another human. It is DISGUSTING!”
Gun deaths among young people are soaring in the United States, up 50% between 2019 and 2021, according to Pew Research Center. Even when they are not victims of gun violence themselves, they’re heavily impacted by the loss of a loved one or caretaker as a result of gun violence. As a result, younger generations, in particular, are outspoken about the need for gun reform both nationwide and in their neighborhoods.
Earlier this week, teens in Boston took up the issue of gun violence in their backyards with a “die-in” demonstration organized by the Center for Teen Empowerment. Dozens of Boston youth and community organizers lay on the ground at an intersection in Dorchester to raise awareness of how young people fall victim to gun violence.
Fiona Phie, a program coordinator for Teen Empowerment told the Boston Globe that the conversations around gun violence need to change.
“We need to re-sensitize ourselves, and really remember that we can’t keep going on every single day like this is normal. Because it’s not, and it’s also not acceptable,” Phie said.
Below you’ll find a sampling of responses from readers sharing their thoughts on the ruling and their opinions of the state of gun violence and reform more broadly.
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
“The Second Amendment and the Constitution do not impose age limitations on rights but that shouldn’t mean they are always unlimited in scope. Would anyone question that it is inappropriate to sell a firearm to a 10-year-old? If you state that it is unconstitutional to prevent an 18 to 21-year-old from buying a firearm does that mean it will be unconstitutional to prevent a 16-year-old from buying one? At what point is the line drawn? At some point, common sense and reason need to be applied.
“Some of the arguments in favor of allowing 18 to 21-year-olds to buy firearms use the examples of voting and being a member of the military at those ages. There are distinct differences between those 2 items and buying a firearm. The first, voting, is the right to participate in a process; the second, serving in the military, is a voluntary activity but also, if accepted, includes weeks or more of specialized training with experienced instructors and many hours of practice. In most states, including Massachusetts, firearms training purchase requirements can be satisfied by a one-day course. There is a clear difference between those.
“Imposing an age limit to ensure some degree of maturity and reasonableness in the practice of the right to bear arms in no way contradicts the principle of the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” — Ernie, Attleboro
“I’m a long-time firearms owner of 40 years and a parent. 18 to 20-year-olds are not ready for that responsibility. Many 18-year-olds are still in high school. I had to wait myself, and was not happy, but as I matured I understand the reasoning.” — Dave, Stoneham
“The ruling will also ultimately eliminate an age limit for alcohol and cannabis. Brain science confirms that the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control aren’t fully developed until the mid-twenties. We know that many young people will die if guns become more prolific among our young adults.” — Raymond V., Durham
“‘A well-regulated militia…’ indeed could include restrictions on firearms possession. Why is this leading clause of the much-idolized Second Amendment so blatantly ignored?” — Phil D.
“If we do not allow people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol because of the consequences that can have, why would we let someone under the age of 21 carry a gun?” — Lindsey, Natick
“We need to interpret the Constitution in the current times, rather than take it literally. When you compare the U.S. to countries with much stricter gun control, the evidence is irrefutable that fewer guns result in fewer gun deaths. It’s unlikely that total gun ownership in the U.S. would be addressed, so if maturity equates to more responsible gun ownership, we should put age restrictions in place. And make sure all loopholes are closed as well.” — Jeroen V., Arlington
“Better to have a legally registered firearm owner than an illegal firearm holder that bought it off the streets.” — Tom, Suffolk County
“Eighteen is the legal age of adulthood, eligibility for the military, and theoretically the draft. The age for the legal purchase of a gun is not the problem. There are so many guns in our society that it is foolish to believe this. I understand there is a strong, desperate desire to do something to stem the rate of school shootings and other youth settings. I don’t want anyone to die from gun violence. The reality though is that millions of students do not commit gun violence. It is a small few and we need to understand and target them. Let’s work on real solutions and not just easy political talking points that do not solve anything.” — Charles, Falmouth
“While I am strongly in favor of gun restriction laws, this one is plainly discriminatory against those that are legal adults. There is no comparison to smoking or drinking ages as neither of these is constitutional rights.” — JD
“These are legal sales with FBI checks. This has nothing to do with the spread of illegal gun sales both in the inner cities and in rural areas. If a 20-year-old wants to buy a gun legally they should be able to. The ability to stay free from harm (self-defense) is the most fundamental of human rights.” — Jim, Reading
“Restricting gun sales in an attempt to significantly reduce or eliminate gun violence is a one-dimensional, simplistic approach that will do largely nothing. In virtually all instances of gun violence, including mass shootings, there is an indication that the particular individual would commit a crime found prominently on social media. There needs to be a multi-dimensional, sophisticated, and technological approach to reducing or eliminating gun violence. The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor social media posts, for example. Background checks are a reasonable start, but there needs to be more sophistication. Why wouldn’t we utilize the tools available to us and stop trying to find a quick fix?” — Don A., Pelham, N.H.
“The Constitution, current laws, and prior rulings are clear. You cannot have a knee-jerk reaction to changing documented law due to emotional responses. Piecemealing law does no one any favors. Let’s get the funding back to actual mental health and social services. Enforce laws existing and promote proper handling and use. Firearms have been around since the inception of this country and only recently with the lack of these services and instructional aspects has it gotten worse. If you can serve at 18 in the military and be trusted/ trained, you can do it in civilian life as well. Criminals are not going to stop due to age restrictions so who are you really punishing with hodgepodge laws?” — Drew, Wakefield
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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