21 For Everyone?

Mike Bilyeu In the United States, the legal drinking age for all 50 States and the D istrict of Columbia is 21 years of age. The drinking age is 21 because the powe rs that control our government decided that when one becomes 21, one is magicall y transformed into a responsible person capable of handling the burden that come s with the right to consume alcohol. The drinking age is too high in this count ry. Why enact laws to prohibit an act that will be ignored by many of our peers ? The opposition may say that the higher drinking age discourage teenagers and young adults from consuming alcohol. They say the laws that force merchant s to refuse to sell alcohol to persons under 21 years of age will help stem the "problem" of underage consumption. They believe this will make it virtually imp ossible for people under 21 to obtain alcohol. The opposition also believes tha t the laws against underage consumption of alcoholic beverages will dissuade you ng people from drinking alcohol. The laws that prohibit merchants from selling alcohol to persons under 2 1 are hard to enforce. Even if they are enforced by the authorities, the establ ishment that breaks that law is rarely punished severely. For example, in Belmo nt County in Ohio, the police conducted raids of 5-10 different establishments in 1993 that had liquor licenses and reportedly to sell alcoholic beverages to m inors. It was proven that each business in question had indeed been guilty of t he charges. What would one suspect happen to the business? Wouldn't one expect for them to lose their liquor license? On the contrary, these businesses were given probation without so much as a fine. Also, even if the person under 21 cannot go buy the alcohol himself beca use he is refused by a merchant, he can find an adult and give them the money ne eded to purchase the alcohol and have them purchase it for them. This is especi ally active around college campuses, where it seems to be an accepted practice f or seniors, who are generally over 21, to go and purchase the alcohol for the un derage drinker. If a person did not want to go through the hassle of asking an older person, they could go someone skilled in the art of making fake ID's. Thi s is a burgeoning business among the different campuses I visited. Spending two weeks at Ohio State, one had the offer of three different authentic looking Oh io driver's licenses. So, as one can see it is quite easy for an underage drink er to obtain alcohol. One may think that the penalties for underage drinking would be severe w hile in fact they are quite light unless one is unfortunate enough to be arreste d for DUI. The penalty for being convicted of underage consumption is generally a slap on the wrist for offenders. They usually are required to pay court cost s and attend an alcohol rehabilitation counseling session. Finally, why can other countries condone the act of consuming alcohol as a young person when it is such an "immoral" act in the United States? In many other countries it is a widely accepted practice to drink a glass of wine or oth er alcoholic beverage with their meal. In this way, they learn moderation. If people in the United States learned moderation at a young age, then they would b e less apt to binge drink (drink just to become drunk). This would result in fa r fewer deaths from alcohol related causes since more people would know how to i mbibe without excess. Obviously then the law is not working. Why keep a law that cannot be en forced? If the repercussions from the act of breaking the law are few and light , Why retain the law at all? The legal drinking age in the United States must b e lowered now. If young people in other countries can handle the responsibility of drinking, why can't it be the same for our country?

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