Meet the NRA's Poster Boy for Teens Packing Heat

In my last blog, I discussed the National Rifle Association's latest "courtroom craziness" in which the gun lobby has filed two lawsuits in Texas asserting the God-given right of 18-20 year olds to buy handguns from licensed dealers and to carry them concealed in public places. It turns out the NRA is not the only party challenging the age restrictions. Meet the gun lobby's poster boy for teens packing heat: An 18-year-old Lubbock, Texas resident named James D'Cruz.

The NRA's lawsuit describes Mr. D'Cruz as a "law-abiding, responsible citizen" who has received lots of firearms training from his grandfather, his father and as a member of JROTC. He also is a pretty good shot, receiving numerous marksmanship awards.

The suit, however, neglects to mention that Mr. D'Cruz has a certain fondness for very violent phrases and expressions which (as you might already have guessed) he has shared on his Facebook page. Here are a few choice examples:

"In this field of hundreds begging for their lives, we shall spare none."

"After hunting men, nothing can compare."

"I will stare into your eyes as I pull the trigger and laugh as you hit the ground with your last, pathetic breath."

"A killer in me is a killer in you."

"I'm feeling like a monster."

"You wanted a war, you got one, now quit whining and leave before I destroy you further."

"I just want to leave the world colder."

I have no doubt many of these quotes are not Mr. D'Cruz's original. And who knows what his motivation was to select these quotes to share with the Facebook universe, with an accompanying "gangster" image of himself. But this is the NRA's poster boy for concealed carry by teens? This is the best the gun lobby could do to allay the fears of reasonable people that allowing teens to slip semi-autos in their jeans before going on dates may not be the best idea? (Needless to say, the postings, and the image, disappeared from public view shortly after the Brady Center called attention to them. We have, however, preserved them for posterity, and for consideration by the court.)

I am not saying that these postings show that Mr. D'Cruz is violent or will become violent. But surely his preoccupation with violent and dark expressions, and his "gangster" Facebook image, underscore the bizarre behavior that is typical of many teens who have some growing up to do. It just makes no sense to ensure that more of them are carrying loaded guns to the local multiplex, whether they have ever committed a crime or not.

In response, the gun zealots point out that there are lots of 18-20 year olds who are quite responsible. That may be true. It also misses the point. The fact that some 18-year-olds could responsibly consume alcohol does not support lowering the current 21-year-old minimum age for the purchase of alcoholic beverages. The policy argument against legalizing hidden handguns for this age group surely need not prove that every person age 18-20 would misuse guns if allowed to carry them in public places.

In recently labeling the NRA's idea of concealed carry by teens "breathtakingly irresponsible," the New York Times cited FBI crime data showing that arrests for murder and manslaughter peak at age 18. In fact, the age group 18-20 accounts for nearly 20% of arrests for those crimes, even though it accounts for only 5% of the population. If the NRA concedes that some age limitation is desirable (should 10-year-olds be allowed to carry?), then it makes no sense to allow concealed carry of lethal weapons by the age group that presents the greatest risk for lethal violence. (Apart from the policy issue, there also is the legal barrier that nothing in the Supreme Court's recent Second Amendment decisions suggests a right to carry weapons in public for any age group, much less for teens.)

Defenders of the NRA's lawsuits note that young people have the right to vote, to worship their God, to petition their government and to exercise other constitutional rights. Analogizing the Second Amendment to other provisions of the Bill of Rights requires a suspension of belief in the obvious difference: allowing 18-year-olds to vote, pray, and write their elected officials puts no one else at risk of physical harm. Only ideologues willing to ignore the real world would say the same about teens carrying guns.

As one West Texas gun shop owner put it, "I just think there are a lot of young people out there who are 18 years old who don't have the right frame of mind to be carrying a weapon." Or, to quote another Texas gun owner, with two sons 18 and 21 who have been taught gun safety from an early age, allowing 18-to-20-year-olds to buy handguns and carry them in public is "one of the worst ideas I've heard of in a while."

Amen. Anyone who doubts the wisdom of those words need only recall the NRA's poster boy for teens packing heat.

For more information, see Dennis Henigan's Lethal Logic: Exploding the Myths that Paralyze American Gun Policy (Potomac Books 2009).