18 vs. 21: Why?

First, I know a thread similar to this was on here sometime before, but I want to touch on this in a different way.

I’m going to be turning 18 in a few months, and this really concerns me.

When I’m 18, I can…
-Buy cigarettes
-Be drafted into the military
-Make legally binding contracts
-Buy rifles and shotguns
-Get married without parental consent
-Be sentenced to life in prison or death

Yet, I can’t buy handguns or buy/consume alcohol until I am 21. Why? What are the merits behind this? Am I a legal adult? If I am, why don’t I get all the rights of being an adult? If I’m no, how come, when a legal adult is 18 years of age?

I can serve in the armed forces of the U.S., yet I can’t buy a handgun. Would I be allowed to buy a handgun once I’m in the military, or can I only be issued one? Would I be allowed to drink alcohol when I’m on leave?

What about if I get married at 18-20 and live in my own residence? Why should I only be allowed to buy a rifle but not a handgun for protection? A handgun is easier to store and to keep away from kids than is a big rifle (At least for any semi-intelligent person it is), is less cumbersome to use, and is better suited for self-defense. I would rather have a handgun in the drawer of my nightstand than under my bed somewhere or locked in a cabinet.

Drinking alcohol almost makes sense. Scientific studies have shown that most males don’t stop developing until around 21 (Sorry, no cite). But…what allows the Federal Government to enact national legislation concerning alcohol drinking/purchasing ages? I don’t know, but I do think think any law like that should be passed on the state level, not national. Also, if the law is purely to protect physical development, then why am I allowed to kill myself with cigarettes at 18? Is there something else going on here that I missed?

18 or 21: Make up your mind. You can’t go living with dual standards on what adults are allowed.

Everything in it’s own time.You can have a paper route at 12 but not drive. You can drive at 16 but not smoke. You can smoke at 18 but not drink. You can drink at 18 but not run for Senate. You can run for Sentate but not President until you’re 35. You can be President at 35 but not retire and collect full Social Security until 65 (or in your case 67).

You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

And you can’t have everything at once, you’d get bored.
Although I wouldn’t have a problem with bumping the drinking age down to 19, the rest of your thread is just whinning: I want it! I want to do it! And I want it NOW!
Boo Hoo.

And, yes, we most certainly can go on with dual standards on what adults are allowed. I sure wouldn’t want a 20 year old president, I don’t care if he is an “adult”.

:rolleyes:And a 40 year old needs to learn how to type. That should say you can drink at 21.

Unless, of course you graduated high scool in 1980 like me. Than you could legally drink at 18.:D:

I’ve promised myself to never get involved in a handgun debate on this board again, but the drinking at 21 is a bit of a mystery to this European.

If you’re going to drink at all, you’ll have to learn to drink responsibly, and this process includes a bit of experimentation. No way around it. Getting the experiments out of the way when you’re not burdened down with a load of real-world responsibility seems to me to be quite logical. A 16-year old can presumably better afford to spend a day nursing a hangover and feel bad about the stupid things he did than a 21-year old. A 21-year old might attempt to go to work, drive etc. when still under influence because he needs the money, can lose his job etc.

If you can trust people to drive in traffic at 16 - IMHO, one of the heaviest responsibilities there is - might you not trust the same people to be sound enough of judgment to avoid drinking themselves silly ? And even if they do (and of course, some will), most 16-year olds won’t be able to screw up so badly as most 21-year olds. DUI excepted, but that’s probably a problem for 21-year olds as well…

S. Norman

Spiny, in the U.S. most people do their experimentation with alcohol at 16 or even younger. The first time I got drunk (as opposed to the first time I drank alcohol) was when I was 15 (but I first got high at 11). I think it teaches us to disregard laws we think are silly at a young age.

Oh, I had no doubts that this is the case. I was trying to point out that the law, to me, looked a bit illogical (or “silly”, if you insist). Having laws in place that are begging to be broken is, to quote O’Rourke, “pinning a “Kick me” sign on the backside of the majesty of law”.

S. Norman

About 25-30 years ago the drinking age WAS lowered to 18. The impetus behind it seemed to be the Vietnam War (“If you can be sent out there and killed, you ought to be able to drink” seemed to be the driving logic behind this.) After we withdrew,the drinking age went back up. IIRC, so did alcohol-related accidents and such. This is probably why they returned the drinking age to 21 and kept it there. To tell the truth, as I didn’t drink much until after 21 I didn’t care. It’s certainly better than setting the age limit for ALL of those things to 21.

I think the OP raises a valid point: you’re good enough to die for your country at 18 (at the very least least register for Selective Service, at most join the Armed Forces and get possibly get sent into a war zone/combat), yet not to drink or own a handgun.

My folks introduced me to alcohol at 14, in measured, supervised doses (a glass of wine with Sunday Dinner, an occasional beer). Even though I did get silly once or twice and Pray To The Porcelain Demon, all-in-all I handled alcohol much more responsibly than my peers, and to this day I am a purely social drinker.

I joined the military at 19, and went overseas to Germany, where there were no such proscriptions on American GI’s drinking under the age of 21, even at American (on-post) GI clubs. This was often to the detriment of our German hosts, as most GIs have little or no experience with moderation or strong German beer (I plead guilty to the later, but my learning curve wasn’t as steep as other young GIs who had only “binged” as teens).

So the military simply abides by the host state’s/province/country’s laws regarding drinking age, and have no such regulations themselves, other than making operational areas “dry”, such as fleet vessels and deployed soldiers in a “hostile zone”.

But overseas or stateside, I could crew an M-1 Abrams tank, be responsible to handle/discharge heavy ordinance, allowed to see sensitive information, have the lives of other men placed into my care/responsibility, and yet I cannot own a handgun?

Considering the circumstances, though, and based solely on personal experience, I cannot but conclude that maybe, just maybe, that this isn’t such a bad thing.

It boils down to the individual: I’ve known 12 year-olds I would rather go hunting/shooting with than full-grown adults, and am actually a cautious moderate where further gun-control proposals are concerned.

So while I feel that I was certainly responsible enough to safely own/handle/store a handgun at 18, I’m not so sure of others, G.I. or civilian.

The thought that a person with little or no experience with firearms can just walk into a store and buy a gun sometimes makes me uneasy, even though it is a right that I have observed and jealously defend for myself.

I know that it makes me sound like a bit of a hypocrite (OK for me, not for others), but I was raised around firearms and had safety and the notion that rights entail responsibilty rigorously drilled into me by family and friends from an early age.

I’m not so sure of others.

One small detail:

Even within the greater US jurisdiction, a lot of these ages of compliance vary depending on the locality. In some jurisdictions you achieve full civil adulthood (meaning you can marry w/o parental consent, own/sell/buy/take loans on real property in your own name, etc.) at 18, in others you get a waterd-down version of these prerrogatives at that age and get the full one at 21. I’ll mention also the varied quiltwork of age-of-consent laws.

A lot of the 18 vs. 21 issue has to do with the already-mentioned draft age; it also has to do with how at 18 you are expected to be out of compulsory education and a large segment of the population will go straight into the workforce, as opposed to on to college, and therefore should have some rights correspondent to no longer being dependents. In the old days, you probably were working since your early teens, but that was most likely at your own family’s farm or shop so it didn’t matter that you were still subject to parental authority. Down here, full legal adulthood is at 21, but your parents may “emancipate” you at 18.

BTW, as a former State Gov. official, the Federal Gov.'s use of carrot-and-stick funding policies to pressure us into such things as ratcheting up the drinking age, or requiring drug testing among our private contractors, or any other such thing that is technically our jurisdiction, was one of the most annoying parts of dealing with DC.


This is not accurate. A person can own a handgun at 18. She just cannot buy one.
Monster, if you live on your own and want a handgun so badly, have a parent buy you one. You are allowed to own them. You just cannot purchase one yourself yet. (Sorry I don’t write these laws)
As far as drinking goes… well you cannot buy orpossess beer. Sorry!

They were (strictly speaking).

In Quebec, the legal drinking age is 18.

When I was 18 this was the coolest thing ever.

but over the next 3 years, I managed to achieve absolute idiocy under the influence of alcohol 56 times, with plenty of examples of lesser idiocy between.

Now older, (at an aged 22), I can look back and see the merits of a higher drinking age.

In Quebec here, too.

Scott, what’s the point of the legal drinking age being higher if it isn’t followed? You got drunk for the first time before you were legally allowed to, I never had trouble if I wanted alcohol, either.

If people want to get around the legal drinking age, they will. So instead of making it something “forbidden” and evil and cool (yes, I’m exaggerating, so sue me) I think it should be something that kids learn is okay in moderation.

And I agree all the 21/18 crap in the US is weird. Is there anything like that in Canada, anyone know?

Bear_Nenno, are you sure that at 18 it’s legal to own a handgun? I don’t think that’s the case, I’ve never read anything that says anything remotely like that. Do you have a cite?

An 18 year old can posses a handgun, but cannot buy one. Of course, state and local laws vary. I remember a 19 year old who came into my shop wanting to buy a handgun…he had just been hired by the local police, but he had to purchase his own weapon out of the uniform allowance the gave him. I couldn’t sell it to him, even though he had documentation that he was in fact a sworn officer. His father ended up buying the gun for him.

Last I heard (back in the 1980s), the legal drinking age in Hawaii was 19. Has that changed?

Back in 1986 or '87 ALL states had raised their drinking ages to 21 because of a federal law that threatened highway funds if they didn’t (the same blackmail tactic used for the 55 mph national speed limit). Wisconsin raised it’s age from 18 to 19 in 1984 to keep booze out of the hands of high schoolers, as many seniors are 18. (I was 18 my entire senior year and could legally drink:D ) Then a year or 2 later had to raise it again because of Unca.

I do not know if that federal law mandating 21 has been repealed, and I do not know if any states have lowered theirs. I doubt it.

You can join the Armed Forces at the age of 17, with parental consent.

The DA can charge you as an adult, even if you’re under 18, for certain crimes.

You could always move to Japan where the age of adulthood is 20. You have to get parental consent to be married if you’re younger than that. The legal drinking age is 20, as is the age for obtaining most driver’s licenses.

Why does the Gov. have the handgun age at 21? Is it another attempt to control school violence? Anyone have an idea how long it’s been in place?

In many ways, rifles and shotguns are more dangerous than a handgun. The only way they are less dangerous is their difficult concealability. So why does the government prohibit the sale of handguns to anyone under 21, but not rifles or shotguns?

Louisiana kept the drinking age for beer and wine at 18 until just last year, I believe. Eventually the federal government was able to bully them into raising it through withholding highway funds.