At what age does freedom begin?

Civil rights as a young adult

By mandate of the government, when a man turns 18 years old, he must enroll into the Selective Service in the event the draft is reinstated. Thousands of our active-duty personnel fit into the 18–20 age range; these men and women serve in foreign lands to preserve our freedom here at home, yet we are not free. Although it may sound as if I am trying to make a case for lowering the legal drinking age, my argument involves a very real civil rights issue. There should be no acceptance that one must be over 21 to exercise their civil rights.

At the age of majority, you are legally recognized as an adult, enjoying the full responsibility of your own actions. In the state of Florida, adulthood begins at 18 (but this age varies from state-to-state). At this age, you can legally acquire a gun. Hence, the ability to exercise the right to keep arms is one of the many legalities “unlocked” at eighteen. However, the Constitution makes it clear — gun rights include the carry of firearms. Despite this, the state of Florida offers no legal way for a citizen to bear a firearm for self-defense under the age of 21.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” — The Bill of Rights

Consider this situation: a 20 year-old, law-abiding citizen who owns a pistol. At home, they feel better prepared to face a threat. Commuting in their car, they know that they have an effective tool accessible to defend themselves if the need arise. However, when they arrive at a destination other than home, the gun remains inside their vehicle. What’s the point of having a self-defense tool if you don’t have access to it? That's the harsh reality — the government prohibits a small percentage of the adult population from being able to carry the tool that might save their life — leaving young adults defenseless from the countless forcible felonies that occur across the country.

As the law currently stands, Floridians have one option to exercise their right to bear arms — obtain a Concealed Weapon Licence from the state. In addition to requiring a thorough background check and proof of competency with a firearm, the state limits eligibility to those 21-or-over. This requirement excludes an unlucky minority — young adults. Infringing on the rights of young adults is illogical and unjust. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, young adults experience the highest homicide victimization rate compared to all other age groups. Arguments claiming precipitation of increased gun violence in allowing 18–20 year olds to carry fail to address the wrongdoing in infringing a person’s basic constitutional right.

The Supreme Court of Florida in Tallahassee, Florida

The momentum to change current laws regarding the carry of firearms is gaining, with progress being made in many states across the country. In the state of Florida, recent efforts have been stonewalled by committee politics. However, this summer may prove to be drastic for Florida gun laws — the Florida Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments for Norman v. State. The case will address, and hopefully redefine, the way the state of Florida interprets the right to carry.

Regarding the debate on allowing 18–20 year olds to carry, not much is in the pipeline to change the age restriction. In 2012, the Florida legislature passed a bill allowing active duty and honorably discharged veterans to obtain a concealed carry permit regardless of age. The civil rights organization that authored the legislation, Florida Carry, is determined to achieve full recognition of the right to bear arms by all law-abiding adults. Unfortunately, changing the status quo takes time. The path to restoring a fundamental right seemingly lies with small progressions.

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