Guns & Young Brains

I’m proud of President Trump for taking steps to address the growing epidemic of teen and young adult violence in our country. I’m proud of him for gathering a variety of law enforcement, mental health and education experts to give input.

Hertz, National and Enterprise might have something to say about it, too.

When I talk to kids, I tell them that the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. The last portion to develop is the frontal cortex, which is associated with planning, reasoning, problem solving and thinking-before-acting.

That’s why they need the guidance of their parents, teachers, pastors, etc.

The frontal cortex also affects the amygdala, which regulates emotions.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, a teen’s “actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:

  • act on impulse
  • misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
  • get into accidents of all kinds
  • get involved in fights
  • engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:

  • think before they act
  • pause to consider the consequences of their actions
  • change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

These brain differences don’t mean that young people can’t make good decisions or tell the difference between right and wrong. It also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions. However, an awareness of these differences can help parents, teachers, advocates, and policy makers understand, anticipate, and manage the behavior of adolescents.”

Adolescence, according to research in brain development, does not end until 25.

Most car rental agencies have been requiring a minimum age of 25 even before research and MRI studies showed that renting to a pre-twenty-five year old is risky.  They knew based on experience.

Perhaps the problem is not solely mental illness, perhaps the problem is mental illness and/or an immature brain.

Perhaps we should set a minimum age of 25 to purchase a gun.

As a general rule.

If a 23 year old woman has left an abusive relationship and is in fear of her life, she can seek an exception from the courts.

If an 18 year old wants to go hunting with his dad, his dad can purchase the gun in his name, and be held responsible as he would if he were co-signing a loan.

Given the research, can you think of a single good reason to put a semi-automatic weapon into the hands of an impulsive, not-yet-fully-developed, more-emotional-than-logical brain? Can you think of a good reason to put any gun into those hands?

I can think of at least 17 good reasons why we shouldn’t.

As I said in my last post, I am not for guns and I’m not against guns but I am for a bit of gun control.

Given the research.

Time cover.jpg

Click here for the text of an interesting May 10, 2004 Time Magazine article on Giedd’s research.

Giedd, J. N. (1999). “Development of the human corpus callosum during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology
& Biological Psychiatry 23: 571-588.

Giedd, J. N. (2004). “Structural magnetic resonance imaging of the adolescent brain.”

Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities: 77 – 85. Giedd, J. N., J. Blumenthal, et al. (1999). “Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study.” Nature Neuroscience 2(10): 861-863.