If 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote in national elections, they should be given the right to purchase firearms as well. Children are the future, and it’s about time we nudged these kids towards greater civic engagement.
And if Democrats want automatic voter registration for teenagers, whether these kids have any interest in participating in elections or not, let’s pass national concealed carry reciprocity and automatically sign them up so they can embrace the inalienable right to self-defense, one of our nation’s oldest and most sacred ideals. Don’t worry, they’ll be able to opt out if they’re not interested.
After all, how can we ask teenagers to participate in the consecrated responsibility of voting—a process that concerns, among numerous other issues, the governing of energy policy, health care, war, and taxes—and deny them the freedoms and responsibilities of the laws they’ve helped create? If you’re old enough to have a say in American foreign policy, you should be able to join the military, for example. If we trust the judgment of a teen for who should fill the most powerful positions in the world, why not trust their choices about drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes or getting involved sexually with someone over 18?
It’s only fair, of course, that we institute the same policies for felons. If one-time criminals have paid their debt to society and been rehabilitated, they too should be re-enfranchised, and given the same liberties afforded everyone else by the Constitution. After all, there many more meaningful and consequential rights in the Constitution than a fleeting vote.
Of course, it’s telling that the same Democrats who forced health insurance companies to treat 26-year-old adults as adolescents want to reward high school sophomores—who aren’t even allowed to take an aspirin without parental permission—with voting rights. A number of states are looking toward teenage suffrage in state elections, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi supports lowering the federal voting age, telling reporters that such a move would be a boon to “voter engagement” in the United States.
“Voter engagement” is really part of the majoritarianism that has become a religious ideal among progressives who see the state as the wellspring of all progress and morality. It’s an attitude that flies in the face of American republicanism and common sense.
Fortunately, most young Americans already have the decency to skip voting. Only around 30 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cast ballots. In a country governed by federalism, voter turnout is generally low because many political races aren’t close, so people rightly don’t feel the need to participate. For young people, it seems, it’s mostly a healthy apathy about politics. May it continue.
But at least 18-year-olds, in an ideal world, are heading towards a careers and adulthood. Those who advocate for 16-year-olds to take adult roles in political discourse either haven’t met many 16-year-olds or don’t really view voting as an important civic duty. Rather, they’re interested in empowering a group of people who can be easily manipulated with emotional appeals, fantastical promises, and scaremongering.
Teenagers—some, incredibly bright and well-informed; others, alarmingly dimwitted —are more susceptible to these factors because, well, they’re still kids. Even if they weren’t, though, few teens have had much practical engagement with the adult world. Almost none have to wrestle with the responsibilities or consequences of bad government policy. Kids would be even more prone than the average American to send the bill for their quixotic ideas to others. In many ways, they’re the perfect constituency for Democrats.
Worse, public schools haven’t prepared these kids to actively engage in civic life. A 2016 survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government. This is why we have an entire slate of candidates embracing attacks on the Constitution. Kids are even less knowledgeable.
Some advocates for teenage suffrage argue that it’s unfair for 16-year-olds to live under laws written without their input. Well, 12-year-olds are also governed by these laws. Four-year-olds, too. Most of the laws Americans function under were written long before they ever voted, by people they’ve never met. Teens, who generally view themselves as the smartest people ever to walk the Earth, tend to dismiss tradition and norms—which is another compelling reason to delay the voting age as long as possible.
Other advocates like to argue that teens are no worse than adults, who are also often uneducated and irrational. It’s true. A number of Republicans, for example, were birthers during the Obama years. More than 50 percent of Democrats believed George W. Bush knew ahead of time about 9/11. Today, more than 50 percent of Democrats believe Russia hacked the 2016 election and changed votes.
These adults aren’t competent voters. As a nation, we should strive to have better-educated voters. But pointing out the wretched state of our electorate isn’t a persuasive reason to create millions of additional teen voters who are even less invested and even less knowledgeable.
Some of us believe that not voting is often the most patriotic choice. Yet if we’re going to be giving 16-year-olds adult responsibilities, let’s not only give them the ones that Democrats believe will benefit them politically.