Why the Legal Drinking Age Should Be 18

Why the Legal Drinking Age Should Be 18

Twenty-one is too late.

Once upon a time, the legal drinking age in the U.S. was 18 in some states, rather than 21. It was a magical time we've heard about from our parents' college stories, like fairytales. The drinking reality now for young people between 18 and 20 is very different.

An estimated 78 percent of teens in the U.S. have consumed alcohol. Let that sink in – about 8 in 10 young people between the ages of 13 and 20 have had alcohol, a substance usually illegal for this age group. This statistic should have you shocked, but if you have stepped foot in West Campus during the weekend, or any college for that matter, or even just talked to basically any college student about their experience with alcohol, you’re not surprised at all. Drinking is a known reality in college, just as it was 30 years ago when the legal drinking age was raised, only now it is a reality that feeds on fear of punishment.

Many adults point to underage drinking deaths and accidents as proof of our need to not drink before the age of 21. What they should actually see is evidence of poor education of minors in regard to alcohol, the serious risk of hiding underage alcohol consumption behind closed doors, and the binge drinking culture that emerges from the restriction of alcohol to 21 year olds. The threat of an MIP charge, which bears potential for a fine, community service, suspension of driver’s license and a criminal record, hangs over the heads of young adult drinkers, encouraging risk-taking and undermining of the law in order to obtain alcohol.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4,554 underage deaths occur each year due to excessive alcohol use. These are preventable deaths if teenagers feel empowered to seek help and are well educated on what to do in a situation of alcohol overdose, but the truth is that they are not. An intolerance towards alcohol in the political, criminal justice, and education systems leads to much minor misinformation and improper education. Fear of university repercussions and legal punishment keeps college and high school drinking underground and behind closed doors.

The minimum drinking age breeds illegal activity, ranging from simple alcohol consumption to an entire illegal market involving the creation and selling of fake ID’s. A study on the subject found that by sophomore year, about 32.2 percent of college students own a fake ID. On a campus like UT, that would mean about 2,300 students of each class of approximately 7,000 will own at least one fake ID by next semester. That is a lot of students considering the punishment for possessing a fake ID here in Texas can range from a $500 dollar fine to the possibility of a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.

Our country is only one of four developed nations in the world with a legal drinking age over 18, and of these it is the highest legal minimum drinking age in the developed world. The fear-driven alcoholic culture on college campuses in the U.S. leads to unregulated abuse of alcohol, evasion of police and reluctance to seek medical help, even when it is necessary.

The fact is that the vast majority of 18-20 year olds who do not drink refrain from doing so because they don’t want to, not because they can’t or because it’s illegal. Meanwhile, the 18-20 year olds who want to drink do, in spite of the legal drinking age and the potential punishments that accompany it.

We are 18. We are old enough to vote, to serve jury duty, to make a will, to get married, to buy cigarettes, to live on our own, to own property, to go to war and to have a job. We are endowed with all the rights and freedoms available to adults in this country except one – drinking alcohol. And this contradiction of adulthood and freedom with the inability to legally drink puts young adults at risk and needs to change.

Popular Right Now

Fighting For Gun Control Is More Than Just A Fight To Restrict Weapons

The decision for restriction affects all of us, whether or not we own a gun.

First things first— the fight for gun control isn't about guns. It's about being able to feel protected and fight for our equality.

The recent Parkland shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School was only another mass shooting that has brought up the topic of gun control, an event that only followed the Las Vegas shooting on a country music festival, the Texas Church shooting, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting, the Lincoln Country shooting spree in Mississippi, the Maryland High School shooting and 427 other mass shootings — all taking place only in 2017.

If that's not already a reason for concern, within the first three months of 2018, we've had 68 mass shootings, and almost all could've been prevented through gun legislation and background checks. The problem with trying to advocate for reform is that someone has to be on the receiving end to hear, but the more the urgency to find a solution is revealed to us, the more we are suffocated and left unheard.

Mass shootings themselves are a symptom of America's brokenness, for having such internal conflict and no solution for it. We look at mass shootings and react by doing nothing, letting the problem remain very alive and the magnitude of it grow exponentially, such as in the Flint's water crisis (which still hasn't been fixed, in case you're wondering).

Thus, beginning America's use of exercising one clause in the First Amendment: our right to petition and gather. Walkouts are organized, protests are planned and more and more demonstrations are planned to gain the attention of Congress and the government to fix this growing issue. We try to promote gun legislation as a "now problem," a "yesterday problem," not a "later" problem, but one that's going to continue to grow and fester until it will be too big to do anything to stop it.

Solutions to the gun crisis shouldn't just be up to Congress. They should be addressed and debated by our nation as what is important to us as a country. Where do we stop and draw our boundaries? Is it more important to deal with our "now" problems: poverty, unemployment, racism or draw our attention to our "later" problems, which include stopping future mass shooters?

In other terms, if given the choice, would you improve a life or save one?

In theory, the entire issue can be easily solved: simply impose stricter protocols and restrictions on who can obtain and purchase firearms so that potential shooters either can't (or at least face great difficulty with) acquiring a firearm.

However, there's the conservative perspective: the issue isn't in guns at all, therefore we shouldn't restrict them, and if we do restrict, it infringes on our right to bear arms constitutionally deemed in the Second Amendment, or the right to hold weapons for our own defense. Liberals who believe the Second Amendment should hold exclusions feel that a prohibition should be made for weapons with warfare capabilities and restrictions should be imposed on smaller firearms.

Quite honestly, I don't believe entirely in either — no solution is completely correct.

The conservatives argue that the issue isn't about guns, and with that statement I completely agree. Guns can't kill people, people kill people using guns, but the gun didn't nor could make the decision to fire the bullet — that decision was made entirely by whoever's finger is on the trigger. However, I disagree that because the issue isn't about guns, we shouldn't restrict them as a result or allow such easy access to such dangerous weapons throughout the consumer market.

Similarly, I don't believe that banning warfare weapons and restricting smaller firearms will change anything. A gun is a gun, and all guns were designed and intended to kill. Whether or not it is an AK-12 or a handgun bought from a local Walmart doesn't matter. At the end of the day, it doesn't change the fact that a life has been taken — restriction or no restriction.

Instead, the problem lies in who we are as a nation, and who we are becoming.

We're given two possibilities as a result: either a nation completely without gun, or a nation so full with them that the likelihood for a mass shooting to occur is almost impossible, because everyone will supposedly then be able protect and defend themselves.

In both scenarios, we are dramatically changing who we are as a nation — either by abusing our right to bear arms or mass infringement by denying our Second Amendment, American rights. In all likelihood, both scenarios would most likely lead to more protests and internal conflict, a more broken America and a greater standstill in government.

Already, we are seeing the latter scenario take place by the arming of teachers within the school system to protect their students from another shooting event. Already, we are experiencing massive backlash and disagreement by the people and government. Just recently in high schools, we have witnessed walkouts over Trump’s election, over deportation, in support of striking teachers’ unions, against police violence, calling for justice for Trayvon Martin who died from a racial targeted shooting and nationally organized walkouts from inaction after Parkland.

Already, we are breaking America. Is this our future? Fighting to feel safe? Fighting to be equal? Is this our story?

Year after year, the record for casualties in a mass shooting have been broken; the body count of those lost to the same issue has increased tenfold, yet we're walking backward rather than forward on advancing to find a solution.

How is it that 12 high-powered rifles designed for war could be acquired and modified to be able to unleash nine rounds per second on a crowd of civilians in Las Vegas and not be stopped?

How is it that tips were made months before Parkland, warning police and the FBI of a YouTube user under "nickolas cruz" who posted death threats and comments proclaiming that he wanted to become a school shooter and not be stopped?

How is it that we have seen and sent our apologies to over six hundred shootings last year, plus the almost seventy shootings this year already, and not realize we need to move from our resolution standstill?

Already we have moved as a nation, through movements such as #NeverAgain and #ArmMeWith, started by teachers on Twitter who listed items they needed other than guns in their classrooms, such as more counselors to help the children, more teachers to decrease classroom size and overall funding towards the education system rather than towards buying weaponry for them. Our achievements as a society should be noticed it is now time for the government to act in response, creating that nation where we can finally believe that we are equal and feel we are safe.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter/ ResistanceSquad

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Republicans Turn Into Reactionaries

How the right turned from conservatism finest to reactionary lapdogs

Traditionally in America, we consider politics split long a dichotomy right vs. left, Republicans vs. Democrats, and liberal vs. conservative. The first two remain as true today as they were since the founding of the Republican Party but recent events have changed the third point. Today's divide is not between liberals and conservatives but between liberals and reactionaries.

Now outside of a political science seminar, the word reactionary seldom comes up in polite conversation though it is a useful word to know. For many of those who do use the term it is applied simply as a more extreme form of conservatism, however, I believe that it is something more than that. To understand what a reactionary is it's important first to understand how reactionaries are similar to conservatives and how they differ.

The political project of conservatism is essential to conserve society the way it is currently. They seek to cry stop to the march of time and maintain the status quo against all challenges or upsets either because they are satisfied with the present arrangements or they are skeptical of any project of improvement. Generally, it’s some combination of the two along with a certain narrow focus on what is immediate and intimate to their life. Conservatives look toward history fondly but they are conscious that the past is not perfect and is in many respects deeply flawed.

Reactionaries are different. They are not satisfied merely with stopping time, oh no they wish to reverse it and go back. Reactionaries are obsessed with the past, but not the past as you would conventionally recognize it. History for them is divided into two; heroic golden ages where everything is pure and good and virtuous and all the world is set right, contrasted to eras of depravity and evil that destroy these bright lights and cast the world into chaos and darkness none more so than our present era.

American reactionaries have created three of these golden eras in American history and by different metrics see the present as a fall from grace from all of them. The first of these eras concerns the founding and sees the founders as pious men who wrote the constitution a divinely inspired document guaranteeing broad sovereignty to individuals and impervious to any future meddling.

The second is the civil war where virtuous southern gentleman fought for the rights of their states against a tyrannical federal government seeking to upend the natural order of the world both socially and racially. The third is the 1950’s where men served as stoic breadwinners supporting their families in factory jobs as women worked in the home while minorities knew their place in the social order and everyone was happy and optimistic about the future.

This version of history is an admittedly beautiful thing to look at until you realize that it is entirely based on the most pernicious of lies. The most sickening thing, however, is just how easy it is to disprove those lies the founder’s deist beliefs and desire to restrain individual liberties are well known, the importance of slavery to the southern cause has countless lines of ink devoted to it by the very men fighting for it, and the overwhelming sense of alienation and resentment practically drips off every piece of culture produced in the 50’s from Goofy cartoons to The Catcher In the Rye.

Despite how easy any of their beliefs are to disprove they still cling to them with all the fervor of a fanatic and it’s tearing our country apart. Their inflexibility to adapt the constitution to the modern world has left our courts enslaved to the phony doctrine of original intent and leaves our legal system unable to provide guidance to a rapidly changing world. Their embrace of the lost cause mythos leaves our educational system polluted by lies and renders millions of our citizens condemned to poverty and suffering because we cannot address the wrongs we’ve done them.

And lastly, their blind embrace of an economy they do not fully understand has to lead to a gutting of our government and growing cruelty of our economy as people are fed into the machine in a vain attempt to bring back prosperity. But perhaps the worst part of these lies is the blood they cost the hundreds of children sacrificed for one amendment, the thousands of lives ground to dust by the carceral system because their skin is the wrong color, and the millions decayed by an economy that values cold hard cash over warm soft bodies.

If there is one political party that seems to fit this image more than the other it’s because the reactionary disease has only consumed one. The Republicans used to be a grand and noble institution contributing many important achievements to American politics but the desire for power and fears of the world around them won out and lead them to invite the reactionaries in, now the inmates are running the asylum.

Trump is now the most visible symbol of this transition and his every word and deed oozes with reactionary malice and spite. What could “make America Great Again” be but a call to arms for reactionaries across the country and call them it did along with their Russian comrades.

The only way to defeat these reactionaries and to ensure they do not destroy all of us in their vain attempt to relive history is for liberals and traditional conservatives to come together for this brief moment against a common foe. The first step in accomplishing this lies in recognizing this problem and calling it what it is. Only by identifying reactionaries and labeling them as such can we being the work of defeating them.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

Related Content

Facebook Comments