Guns America Digest

Republicans Introduce Legislation Allowing 18-20-Year-Olds to Purchase Handguns

By Jordan Michaels

Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate introduced legislation last week that would allow all American adults to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. Current law prohibits handgun purchases for anyone under the age of 21.

The legislation, dubbed The Second Amendment Mandates Equality (SAME) Act of 2021, was introduced in the Senate by Wyoming Senator Cynthia Lummis and in the House by Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie.

Proponents argue that age requirements for firearm purchases are arbitrary and violate the Second Amendment rights of adult Americans. They also point out that adults over 18 are trusted to vote, fight in the military, and form business contracts, and they should be trusted to purchase handguns as well.

“The Second Amendment is a constitutional right, and does not treat 18-year-olds as second-class adults,” Senator Lummis said. “In keeping with the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, the SAME Act would overturn our current restrictive anti-handgun statute and ensure equal treatment under law for adults under 21. Ultimately, if we trust 18-year-olds enough to defend our country and to choose our elected officials, we should trust them enough to purchase a handgun.”

“Why should a 20-year-old single mom be denied the right to defend herself and her children?” asked Representative Massie. “Eighteen, 19, and 20-year-olds are considered adults and can vote on important public policy issues. They can also form business contracts, get married, and serve in the military. As adults, these Americans should not be deprived of basic constitutional rights.”

The legislation would not supersede age restrictions imposed by state governments, barring a Supreme Court decision to the contrary.

The legislation is being co-sponsored in the Senate by a group of Republican legislators, including Cindy Hyde-Smith, Steve Daines, Kevin Cramer, Mike Braun, Mike Crapo, and Jim Risch. In the House, the legislation is being co-sponsored by Republicans Lauren Boebert, Alex Mooney, Jody Hice, Paul Gosar, Doug LaMalfa, Andrew Clyde, Scott DesJarlais, Ralph Norman, Mo Brooks.

Proponents of keeping the minimum age at 18 argue that 18-20-year-olds lack the cognitive function to responsibly own and operate a handgun.

“While an 18-year-old’s brain is similar to that of a fully mature adult, key cognitive processes continue to develop until age 26. These include impulse control, which can affect an individual’s ability to safely and appropriately use a gun,” said public health professor Cassandra Crifasi, writing for the anti-gun outlet The Trace.

If this is true, Crifasi does not explain why the minimum age should be 21, not 26. She also does not explain why 18-20-year-olds lack the cognitive function to operate a handgun but possess the cognitive function to drive, vote, and join the military.

The SAME Act has not yet been assigned a bill or committee. It has little chance of passing either the Democrat-controlled House or Senate this year, but legislation is frequently introduced many years before it passes both chambers.