GOP lawmakers want to let teens buy handguns before they can buy beer

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Ten House Republicans are trying to lower the legal age for handgun purchases to 18.

A group of House Republicans wants to lower the legal age for handgun purchases, hoping to let young people acquire a firearm before they can buy beer or tobacco. Gun safety advocates say this would bring more gun violence and suicides.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) on Wednesday filed H.R. 2890 "to reduce, from 21 years of age to 18 years of age, the minimum age at which a person may obtain a handgun from a Federal firearms licensee." The current federal limits do not apply to guns obtained privately and through unlicensed sellers, but some state laws do.

Massie tweeted on Thursday that he is calling this bill the "Second Amendment For Every Registrable Voter ACT," or the SAFER Voter Act.

It is co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Lauren Boebert (CO), Mo Brooks (AL), Andrew Clyde (GA), Scott DesJarlais (TN), Paul Gosar (AZ), Jody Hice (GA), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Alex Mooney (WV), and Ralph Norman (SC).

Brooks wrote Thursday that he is backing the bill because "If an 18-year-old can vote, join the military, and take on student debt, they should be able to protect themselves."

But according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, passage of the bill could result in a lot more gun deaths.

Giffords notes, "Our country sets minimum ages for driving, voting, and drinking alcohol to encourage responsible behavior. Because young adults are at elevated risk of attempting suicide and engaging in violent behaviors, strengthening minimum age laws for purchasing and possessing guns will help protect young people and the public at large."

The center says this is because "young people are at elevated risk of engaging in violent behaviors against themselves or others" as their brains continue to develop. A 2013 study of people incarcerated for gun crimes found 17% would not have been allowed to buy a gun if their state had banned all handgun sales by those under age 21, and a 2017 FBI report found 28% of all weapons arrests that year were of people between ages 10 and 21.

Since 1984, the federal government has set 21 as the minimum age for purchasing alcoholic beverages.

In December 2019, Donald Trump signed a bill with bipartisan support that set the minimum age to purchase tobacco products at 21. LaMalfa and Mooney voted for the package that included that provision, raising the threshold from age 18.

On March 11, the House passed a bill that would expand background checks for all gun purchases. Massie and all nine of his co-sponsors voted against that proposal, allowing many teens to continue to buy firearms at gun shows with no background checks at all.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2021 so far 106 children under age 12 and 370 teens under age 18 in the United States have been killed by firearms, and an overall total of more than 14,000 Americans have died by gun violence.

An Education Week tracker notes that there were 10 school shootings last year — even with many schools closed due to the pandemic — and that there have already been five school shootings and three deaths in the first four months of 2021.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.