18 is too young to buy a gun

The idea that 18-year-olds should be able to purchase guns is based on an old-fashioned, unscientific view of adulthood. Neuroscience research indicates the brain does not fully mature until around 25.

Mass Shooting At Elementary School In Uvalde, Texas Leaves At Least 21 Dead

Memorials for victims of the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. An 18-year-old who had recently purchased guns killed 19 children and two adults.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

I’ll be turning 18 later this year, and like many of my classmates, I’m looking forward to a memorable senior year filled with sports, social events and college applications.

But some students look forward to turning 18 for a very different reason: On their birthday they will be able to legally buy a gun. More than 44 states allow 18-year-olds to legally buy rifles such as the AR-15. Only six require gun buyers to be at least 21.

While some of these gun purchases are for innocuous reasons, others are truly sinister. Two of the three worst school shootings in American history were perpetrated by individuals who bought their guns upon turning 18: the Uvalde, Texas, school shooter who killed 21 people on May 24 and the Parkland school shooter who murdered 17 people in 2018.

Not all school shooters legally purchase their guns. One of the guns used by the teens who committed the Columbine massacre was obtained through an illegal gun sale. And the 20-year-old who committed the Sandy Hook school massacre used guns owned by his mother.

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But because 77% of the guns used in all mass shootings are obtained legally, changes in the law could play a large role in reducing gun crime.

The idea that 18-year-olds should be able to buy guns is based on an old-fashioned, unscientific view of adulthood. Neuroscience research indicates the brain does not fully mature until around 25; before that, brain regions associated with decision-making are underdeveloped.

Although the law largely ignores it, the mental maturity gap between an 18-year-old and a 25-year-old is vast. Because teens’ prefrontal cortex is still developing, they are prone to poor reasoning and impulsive choices. It’s not surprising that people under 25 make up more than half of those arrested for murder.

America has changed laws before to save the lives of teens. Historically, the legal drinking age for alcohol in most of the country was 18. In response to a drunken driving epidemic, in 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which required states to raise the drinking age to 21.

Lawmakers should go even further with guns. Israel prohibits citizens from buying guns until age 27, unless they have served in the military or completed national service. That age is more in line with brain science than the current American approach.

Of course, some will argue that a constitutional right like gun ownership cannot be restricted past age 21. That’s a question that courts would need to decide.

But the founding fathers understood that in some situations, the maturity of an 18- or 21-year-old is insufficient. That is why the Constitution requires members of the U.S. House of Representatives to be at least 25 and senators to be at least 30. Owning a lethal weapon requires just as much maturity and wisdom, and our laws should reflect that.

Samuel Litwinski, Walter Payton College Prep, Chicago

Schools can save on utility costs

As the school calendar winds down for summer break, students and families will be making plans for vacations, camp, and trips to the beach. Back on campus, administrators and educators will be preparing for next year, including piecing together a plan to keep their aging buildings operational.

Older heating and air-conditioning systems, deteriorating plumbing and antiquated electric networks make it harder for our students to focus on learning.

But the recently enacted Climate and Equitable Jobs Act established an ambitious plan to upgrade schools with energy efficient retrofits and solar power. The Carbon-Free Schools program was championed by Climate Jobs Illinois, a coalition of labor unions advocating for a pro-worker agenda to fight climate change through equitable investments in clean energy infrastructure.

Illinois schools spend upwards of $322 million in energy costs every year. With this program, we can make our schools healthier and safer with better ventilation and lighting and efficiency upgrades, and save schools an estimated 25% on energy bills. The savings can be put back into the classroom.

At Lake Park High School in Roselle, a $4.4 million solar power system investment will net a savings of over $5 million over the next 25 years and a $463,000 utility rebate.  The new system has reduced emissions equivalent to taking 991 cars off the roads.

Every student in Illinois deserves to be in an environment like Lake Park that keeps them safe, healthy and focused on learning, not worrying about whether the air conditioning will stay on.

CEJA’s Carbon-Free Schools program paves a way for public schools to apply for and tap into renewable energy credits, with specific emphasis on schools in underinvested communities. Every school district is also entitled to a free energy audit to help them identify upgrades and savings opportunities. The new law also requires utilities to develop a plan to get more electric school buses on the roads.

If you’re a school administrator, learn how to apply for renewable energy credits and schedule your energy audit.

If you’re a teacher, parent, or community member, get the word out. Ask your superintendent or principal to learn more about how to take advantage of this initiative.

Climate Jobs Illinois will be hosting a webinar series to help districts understand how they can apply. Visit www.climatejobsillinois.org/schools for more information.

Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association, and Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers 

Respect for life?

If only the murdered Texas grade schoolers had been fertilized eggs instead of actual children, then Republicans might pretend to actually care about them.

Daniel Welch, Glen Ellyn

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