Monday, August 25, 2008

Are Teenage Boys . . . Stupid?

In reaction to the tragic shooting of a teenage boy at a Knoxville high school last week, Katie Allison Granju wrote a controversial blog entry on the Knox News Sentinel site about how teenage boys are too stupid to carry handguns. Although I probably wouldn't have used the word "stupid" and I might generalize even further by saying that, unless monitored and approved by a responsible adult, teenagers—male and female—shouldn't be allowed access to handguns (or any guns for that matter), I completely agree with her core argument that teenage boys do not have the judgment to be allowed ready access to handguns. Katie has, however, come under fire by various angry individuals advocating for men’s rights and questioning her position.

Katie’s premise that teenagers lack good decision-making abilities and impulse control is backed by science. For instance, I read an article several years ago on how long it takes the human brain to develop and that frontal lobe development isn't complete until people are in their early twenties. The article’s author asserted that the lack of full frontal lobe development is why, for example, young men are such a success in wartime and other dangerous situations; their ability to reason isn't fully developed, and they therefore take risks that fully developed brains would avoid. I remember this article clearly because my nephew was a teenager when I read it, and I teased him endlessly about his frontal lobe not being fully developed. He was unamused, much as these advocates for men's rights seem to be. (Sidebar: Who among the mean-spirited, name-calling critics of Katie's article is actually advocating for the teenage boy shot and killed last week?) These kinds of scientific findings are a good reason to support efforts to keep young men a safe distance from handguns. That Katie only mentions teenage boys in her post--as opposed to teenagers generally--likely is due to the facts in this case: A teenage boy shot and killed another student. Not a girl. It doesn't make Katie a bigot to comment on the facts at hand.

And I agree with another of her premises--that somewhere up the line from this shooting at Knoxville’s Central High there is an adult responsible for allowing a handgun to enter the stream of commerce and come into the possession of a young man with very little sense or judgment. I, too, hope they find that person and hold him or her accountable. If adults don’t assume responsibility for guns they purchase and sell, and we as a society don't avoid the risks of gun policies that allow teenagers apparently unfettered access to guns, how else are we going to protect our children? What does this crime say about the status of OUR frontal lobes?

No comments: