Down in the GunShine State legislation that would ban all firearm sales to adults under the age of 21 is being contested in court.
While the case is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawyers from both sides are arguing over which expert witnesses should be allowed to give testimony once the proceedings begin.
One potential witness that is a source for much of the bickering is Dr. Pradeep Bhide, a neuroscientist at the Florida State University College of Medicine.
State attorneys, who are charged with defending the law, are asking Dr. Bhide to offer testimony because he contends that restricting gun sales to adults 21 and over “is thoroughly justified from the perspective of neuroscience.”
“Brain regions that exercise voluntary control over our actions develop at a slower pace compared to brain regions associated with emotional and impulsive actions,” Bhide said in a 12-page report filed with the court. “Thus, a developmental ‘mismatch’ emerges within the brain during development.”
The “mismatch” is “particularly pronounced in adolescence … and it fades away in adults, by 21 years of age,” he continued.
“In other words, certain human behaviors that we perceive as the actions of a ‘mature’ or ‘adult’ individual emerge, on average, at 21 years of age,” wrote Bhide. “Delaying gun purchase until 21 years of age can offer the cognitive brain the ‘extra’ time needed to be able to exert adequate control over emotional and impulsive behaviors.”
NRA attorneys, who filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the age requirement, want the presiding judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, to bar Bhide’s testimony for several reasons.
First, they point out that Bhide never directly studied human brain development, that his experiments had only examined laboratory mice. A point that Bhide, himself, conceded.
Second, they said his opinions on the matter are “extrapolated from emerging research of others in the very specialized and controversial area of adolescent brain development.”
Finally, they criticize him for not spelling out the risk associated with young adults legally purchasing firearms and how it is tied to cognitive development.
Bhide’s testimony “cannot assist the trier of fact in this case because the only ‘fact’ for which his testimony has been offered is the link between a handful of articles on brain maturation and the speculation that young adults are more likely to commit criminal violence with a purchased firearm,” wrote the NRA attorneys.
There are several ways to look at this. One is if it’s true that we ought to wait until the brain is fully mature before citizens are allowed to exercise certain fundamental rights and expected privileges then the Second Amendment is only the tip of the iceberg.
For the sake of public safety and the general welfare of society, one can argue, young adults should also be prohibited from driving, voting, gambling, enlisting, protesting, and an array of other potentially dangerous activities and responsibilities that should be reserved only for those with a developed mind.
If the concern is really that they are not fully mature enough to responsibly purchase and handle a long gun, then how can we expect these young, cognitively underdeveloped adults to safely drive a two-ton automobile at high speeds or follow the ROEs while prosecuting a war on foreign soil or peaceably assemble at a contentious political rally or employ reason over passion to vote for a presidential candidate that has America’s best interest at heart?
Short answer is, if we’re being intellectually consistent on this front, we can’t. We need to significantly curtail the freedoms and privileges of young adults across the board.
But, of course, none of the proponents of the age restriction on purchasing guns supports such a sweeping move. And the reason is obvious. Because the law wasn’t conceived from a place of concern for the cognitive immaturity in young adults and its effect on society, rather it was penned solely as a means to hurt the gun community.
As always, gun control isn’t about “saving lives.” In this particular case, it’s about discriminating against young adults and going after the pocketbook of gun makers. Anti-gunners know that by preventing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Floridians from becoming active buyers and sellers in the gun market, they’ll be depriving the industry of a significant amount of revenue.
No, it won’t on its own bring down the 2A community. But when taken in concert with all the other policies anti-gunners are pushing, it’s one of the thousand cuts they hope will ultimately prove to be fatal.