Friday, March 22, 2013
Teens and Guns
"It ain't so much the things you don't know that get you in trouble. It's the things you know that just ain't so."
I'm a strong supporter of gun-rights initiatives, and adamantly opposed to restrictions. Imposing background checks on private sales, for instance, is a step toward enforced registration, which is a step toward confiscation.* Even if the current administration were trustworthy (a big stretch of the imagination) there's no guarantee a future one would be.
I also favor nationwide recognition of carry permits, just as there is nationwide recognition of state-issued driver's licenses. I support concealed carry on all school campuses. You get the picture.
There's one pro-carry initiative I can't support, though: extending carry permits to 18-20 year olds. Proposed by Georgia State Senator Judson Hill, who says it was inspired by young people's military service, it would give the right to carry to kids who've taken a day's worth of training and passed an unspecified test.
This is another of those "If they're old enough to risk their lives in combat they're old enough to..." arguments. The "old enough" criterion has been applied to voting, drinking, making contracts, and it's as foolish in those cases as it is in this one. Adolescents as a group simply do not have the intellectual or emotional maturity to make sound judgements, even when those involve deliberation (e.g. in voting) let alone in the daily handling and possible use of deadly weapons.
Let's get the military argument out of the way first. Adolescent soldiers may well be capable of high-level physical competence and astonishing courage, but they don't act alone. In the military they're told when to go to bed and when to wake up; what to wear and how to wear it;
how their hair should be worn; when and what to eat; what to do each day, and precisely how, when and where to do it. In combat they act on someone's command, operating under strict rules of engagement. Their weapons training is designed first and foremost to avoid training accidents; they're forbidden loaded weapons under most circumstances except actual combat. In short, even combat experience doesn't teach these kids how to carry a concealed, loaded weapon among unarmed people and be prepared to make sudden, life-or-death decisions on their own responsibility.
The large majority of 18-20 year olds will not have even this level of training, nor will they have been taught by competent parents. They'll get their concepts and their habits from movies and video games, or maybe from paintball. Does it seem even remotely possible that four hours of lecture and four hours of range instruction followed by a DMV-level test can create the necessary level of personal responsibility, skill and knowledge?
In fact, it's questionable whether adolescents as a group are capable of learning the judgement and self-control skills necessary to be a responsible armed citizen. A good many of these skills aren't even cognitive. Yes, kids can reason. They often have better information about risks than their elders, or overestimate risk. They do stupid, risky things regardless. What research shows they lack is the emotional development necessary to avoid doing those stupid things. They don't get the queasy feeling that tells an adult some action is foolish or wrong, and that's what gets them in trouble.
Even worse, adolescents don't know they're handicapped. It's not only that since the 60's they've been pandered to by marketers and politicians. It's not only that they've been victimized by a moronic "self-esteem" ideology that neither allows the self-discipline that comes from failure nor the satisfaction of real accomplishment. It's simply a result of ignorance. If one is ignorant of some area of knowledge or skill, one has no basis for judging competence. Add to that the common motive to think well of oneself and you get a case of "unconscious incompetence", or even an illusion of high competence, that's very hard to overcome.
It's because I care about both the right to keep and bear arms and the welfare of innocent people that I oppose Hill's initiative. I believe bad things will happen to people if it's implemented, and these will be used by totalitarians as yet another excuse to deny the right of self-defense to everyone.
We don't need to give them another excuse.
* Read history, or just take the word of someone who knows:
"A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie." -- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, "The Beginning of the Revolution in Russia", Selected Works, Vol. I