North Carolina allows concealed-carry of handguns. Anyone over 21 is eligible to apply for a permit. There are minimal requirements: be a U.S. citizen who has lived in the state at least 30 days; not having a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe handling of a firearm; completion of firearm safety training, which includes practice firing handguns; and learning about N.C. gun laws. Pretty slim requirements, actually.
Where’s the crime wave, folks? All available statistics and the FBI report that violent crime is down. Yet, any number of politicians from President Donald Trump down would have us believe that violent crime is surging and the safety of the republic depends on giving 18-year-olds the right to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, without training and without oversight. Are they trying to stampede voters through fear?
I get teenager impulsiveness and guns. I was a Marine boot in August 1967. Our platoon spent time on the range at Parris Island and Camp Lejeune trying to gain proficiency with M-14 rifles and the .45 semiautomatic pistol. They had us hold the pistol vertically before assuming firing position. One teenage private fired his weapon prematurely. His helmet went straight up into the air. They made us march away.
The teenage years are developmentally uneven. You might think that some 18-year-olds function like they are 25, and yet a moment later they can do something that makes them seem 12. They are young people who are trying to learn to act as adults, but they lack the actual experience of being adults. They make lots of mistakes. They lack the judgment granted by maturity.
The sponsors of HB 746 apparently believe that putting a concealed handgun – untrained, unlicensed and lacking adult oversight – on an 18-year-old makes them qualified to use it. There is no data in the universe that supports such a claim, or absolves leaders who should know better of their responsibilities. It opens the door to suicide, gun accidents, bullying, threats to peers and significant others, and increased homicides.
Young people of this age have unique vulnerabilities. If they are in college, they are likely away from home for the first time. Some are failing academically and socially. If the young person has started a job, she or he has to cope with the adult workaday world. This is a stage of life that is vulnerable to depression and despair. It is irresponsible to give a depressed young person access to lethal force at a time when he feels that he may be failing in life.
A gun is heavy and cold. It can be a drag to carry around and more of a drag to try to conceal. The gun isn’t going away. It is sitting right there for a younger brother or someone else to pick up. The costs are passed on to the community, to first responders, to hospitals and to you, taxpayers. The gun industry doesn’t pretend to take responsibility for the carnage its products produce. That leaves you.
Then there are the not-so-hidden beneficiaries, the politicians. The political class has largely created our gun problem. They have allowed almost everyone to have guns – the guy on the terrorist watch list, the mentally ill, the angry, the political cranks. Now they want to have a feel-good moment when they will try to say they are “empowering” young people.
We need leaders who will advocate for the safety of citizens. We must have regulatory firewalls against out-of-control gun availability. They want guns for the young, and in your schools, churches, and colleges, but there is an important reason they don’t want them in the General Assembly, a “Gun Free Zone.” Mr. and Ms. Legislator, please think this one over.
Adams Wofford worked over 30 years as a clinical social worker at the Children’s Psychiatric Unit at John Umstead Hospital, Dorothea Dix Hospital and Women’s Prison. He was in the Marine Corps from 1967-1970.