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By Jon E. Dougherty
|Jon E. Dougherty|
A state Republican legislator in Wisconsin has a proposal that makes sense. He believes if 18-year-olds are entrusted to defend our great nation, they should at least be allowed to legally drink a beer. As such, state Rep. Mark Pettis, a Navy vet, has introduced a measure dropping the legal drinking age for Wisconsin military personnel to 19, from its current age limit 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," says Pettis, who believes any 18-year-old soldier entrusted with a $10 million M1A1 Abrams tank ought to legally be able to take a drink. He's absolutely right.
Kari Kinnard, head of the Wisconsin chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says research shows the human brain is not fully developed until people, on average, reach 21 years of age. Therefore, the current law "is for their own protection." She's absolutely wrong.
I'm not refuting her research – though for every study saying one thing, there is another saying the opposite. What I am refuting is her flawed logic, and the fact that she is letting her emotions guide her better judgment. So let's turn on the common sense meter and rethink this:
Most everyone over the age of 21 knows how easy it is to get alcohol when you're still under the age of 21. Kinnard cited research showing fewer highway deaths and accidents associated with alcohol since the higher age limit was set. But additional research shows better highways and safer automobiles have likely contributed to fewer highway deaths and accidents overall, alcohol usage notwithstanding (see my previous point) . By and large, most military personnel (young and old alike) are more mature and better disciplined than society as a whole, making them better candidates (at a younger age) to be trusted with alcohol. If 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds' brains are too immature to drink, why are we trusting them with the world's most lethal weapons? When your job is killing for a living, it seems ridiculously quaint to deny that person the very "grown-up" privilege of scoring a legal drink. Pettis' proposal centers around allowing military personnel entrusted to protecting our nation to have a drink legally, not escape the consequences of drinking irresponsibly. If they break other laws while drinking, then they should face the music. Some of the very same people who either wrote or enforce the "21 and older" alcohol provision are much less "mature" and trustworthy than scores of underage American men and women currently in uniform taking fire from Iraqi insurgents and Afghan rebels.
Unfortunately for Pettis, his common sense proposal may not ever see the light of day. That's because there is no provision in the law to allow states to apply for a special exemption from the highway funding provision. That means Wisconsin lawmakers can pass Pettis' bill, but they will lose $50 million in highway funds from the Feds (ironic, considering the federal government gets its money from states and their residents).
That is, unless this senseless and outmoded provision is reversed by Congress.
Let's hope federal lawmakers agree that younger Americans "mature" enough to fight for their country are also "mature" enough to have a beer.
June 1, 2005
~ About the Author ~
Jon E. Dougherty is author of Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border, and editor of the Web site Voices Magazine.
The Dougherty Archive on The Federal Observer