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June 01, 2005

Via Sir George at Emperor Misha's place:

Lawmaker Wants Lower Soldier Drinking Age

One Wisconsin lawmaker figures if the U.S. military trusts 19-year-olds with a $10 million tank, then the state should trust them with a beer.

State Rep. Mark Pettis, a Republican who served in the Navy, is pushing a bill that would drop the drinking age to 19 for Wisconsin soldiers — but only if the federal government agrees it will not yank an estimated $50 million a year in highway aid.

A federal law ties federal highway dollars to compliance by the states with the required drinking age of 21.

"We're treating these young men and women as adults when they're at war. But we treat them like teenagers when they're here in the states," he said.

Now, I'm not exactly a proponent of the idea that teens, in general, are just as smart or wise as those of us who have been around the block so many times we know the only parking spot that's free.* Indeed, I've always had an extremely poor opinion of teenagers, even when I was one myself.

But I think it is not altogether unreasonable to extend all the privileges of full majority to anyone who has [honorably] completed a certain amount of time or reached a level of training in the military services. By volunteering to serve, and then by completing basic training (or maybe six months or a year of service), one has demonstrated a level of maturity that will not be attained by many people who are several years older.

Go on — just try to tell me that a college junior or senior is necessarily more mature than a Marine on his first duty assignment, merely because of a date on a birth certificate. That Marine, or airman, sailor, coastie or soldier has accepted the adult responsibilities attendant with service to his country, and deserves to be treated like an adult. He has earned it.

And by "privileges of full majority," I don't mean just the drinking age. I also refer to the rights protected by the 2nd Amendment. Why should a soldier — trained in the use and safe handling of very deadly weapons — be denied the right to purchase a handgun before his 21st birthday?

To deny those rights due merely to age is a dangerous precedent. Why the arbitrary cut-off at 21? Why not 25 or 30? Or, heck, why allow anyone to buy a handgun at all? When an arbitrary standard such as age (beyond the attainment of legal majority) is used as a determining factor in the exercise of an explicitly protected Constitutional right, who is to say what other arbitrary restrictions may be placed on the exercise of that right?

* With apologies to the Barenaked Ladies.

Posted by Russ at 09:45 AM, June 1, 2005 in Soldiers/Vets

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I've been saying this for years. If you're old enough to die for your country, you're damned well old enough to have a beer.

Posted by: Ith at June 1, 2005 11:31 AM

You're absolutely right. I can tell you, hypothetically of course, if an under 21 man or woman on active duty walked into my veteran's post and hypothetically ordered a drink, I would happily hypothetically serve them.

If they can die for me, they can damned sure drink with me.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at June 2, 2005 12:18 AM

I wonder if this would have an effect on military recruitment if military personnel are promised a special ID that allows them to buy beer and purchase handguns after successfully completing boot camp?

Recruiting is down, especially now that 9/11 becomes more of a hazy memory. I don't think they should issue the special ID just as a recruitment enhancer, but as an acknowledgement of achievement and trust.

Posted by: MarcV at June 2, 2005 01:46 PM

Well, I think that's a load of crap. I am 40 years old, and I can distinctly remember when it was legal to drink at the age of 18 and I was responsible enough to do it BEFORE I went into the service. Sorry, I think it's a load of crap heaped on the shoulders of youth, to expect them to have the "maturity" to go and die for their country, and yet, to say to them, in what seems to me a gross double standard, "we think your mature enough to carry a rifle, and possibly die for this country, but we don't think your mature enough to drink legally". I myself have 2 teenagers, and they assure me that it is exactly this type of double standard that makes most teens crazy, and therefore more apt to take the view of "well, if they don't trust me for one thing, then I ain't helpin out with the other."

Posted by: The Captain at June 3, 2005 12:14 AM

"War is what war have to be" (Jason Clark, May 1976)

Posted by: Scott Evens at June 12, 2005 08:38 AM