Alaska Law Calls for Lowering Drinking Age to 18 for Military

“If you get shot at, you can have a shot.”

That’s the thinking of Alaska State Representative Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage), a Vietnam vet who’s behind a bill that would lower the state’s drinking age to 18 for every person who can show a valid armed forces identification. He’s also calling for lowering the tobacco buying age from 19 to 18 for armed forces members. 

Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage)

“It’s not fair that one guy in a fox hole can go home and have a beer while another guy in the fox hole can’t,” say Lynn. “It’s not about drinking, it’s not about smoking, it’s about equality.”

According to Major Bill Coppernoll, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Army in Alaska, there are about 2,000 soldiers under 21 who serve in the state.

And there are 17 million reasons why Lynn’s bill is bound to fail.  That’s the amount of federal highway funding Alaska stands to lose if they lower the drinking age.

Leaders in the armed forces also oppose the bill, as they fear it will lead to more drinking and smoking in the ranks, something they are already trying to curb. Right now alcohol plays a factor in about one-third of all military misconduct cases in Alaska.

Rep. Alan Austerman (R-Kodiak) see another issue. He thinks other folks who work in harms way, like firefighters and police officers, would ask for a similar exception to the drinking age if the precedent is set with Lynn’s bill.

This whole thing reminds me of what the awesome Mojo Nixon said in his 1986 classic Burn Down the Malls:

You know if Regan finally gets the war he’s looking for, do you think he’s going to be drafting 21 year old? No man, they’re gonna be drafting 18 and 19 year olds.  But you can’t buy a beer. You can get married and screw yourself up real good, but you can’t buy a beer.  You can charge $8,000,000 on the Master Charge, but you can’t buy a beer. You can vote for one fool or another, but you can’t buy a beer.  Cause this is America, America run by the lowest common denominator.

Preach it, Mojo.

But the law’s the law.  As 20 year old ROTC cadet Cody Short says, “We follow the laws applied to the U.S.  I can wait till I’m 21.”  I agree with Cody on this one.  Change the law for everyone or leave it alone.

I also see a huge hole in Rep. Lynn’s reasoning.  He speaks of getting “shot at” and being “in a foxhole,” but those aren’t things that happen in Alaska. Those are things that happen in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are both places NOBODY in the armed services are allowed to drink alcohol.  This is in accordance with General Order Number 1A, Section 2C, which forbids alcohol consumption (or home brewing – bummer!) by any service member while stationed in a country where alcohol is banned.

So what happens in Alaska really doesn’t equate to the risks of battle, even if the young men and women of our armed forces stationed there might eventually be put in harm’s way. Either way, they’re not getting a beer.

At any rate, nothing’s going to happen with this bill soon, as the committee that will decide its fate doesn’t meet again this year.

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Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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20 Comments on “Alaska Law Calls for Lowering Drinking Age to 18 for Military”

  1. johnking82
    April 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    maybe cus’ there are bears in Alaska. This is about bears right?

    • April 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      It’s always about bears around here, John.

  2. April 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Sounds like a great recruiting tool for the military. “Hey buddy, want to drink legally at 18? Just sign these papers and you could be sipping the beverage of your choice in beautiful Alaska in no time!”

    • April 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

      Sure. They could also use it to recruit 18 year olds caught drinking.

      Want to avoid trouble, kid? Well if you were in the Army, this would be legal…maybe if you sign up right now…

  3. April 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Honestly, it’s dumb they haven’t already lowered the drinking age to 18 already. If you are legally an adult, vote, and serve in the military, why can’t you have a beer? This is an ass-backwards way to get the age lowered, but I’m all for lowering the drinking age for everyone.

    • April 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      I always thought the drinking age was raised to 21 because of drunk driving by young drinkers, the theory being that kids who are 18 don’t have the life skills to handle the freedom to consume alcohol responsibly. But that was years ago, and I wonder if the work of MADD and SADD, etc. hasn’t made that less of an argument.

      • April 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

        Right, like those over 21 have figured out how to be responsible with alcohol and driving. Good one.

        • April 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

          Yeah…uh…exactly.

          That, or they’ve had three extra years to convince themselves they are good drivers and can handle to have a few drinks before hitting the road.

          Truth be told, drunk driving is more of an enforcement issue in the US instead of an age thing. Other countries who allow legal adults (18 year olds) have fewer instances of drunk driving and lower BAL numbers when they catch someone, mainly due to the fact that they spend the money and time to enforce the law with checkpoints, etc.

          If you think you might get caught, you do the right thing. Go figure.

      • Tim Smith
        April 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

        I do believe some of your facts are off a little bit. I have several friends and family members from europe and the reason that 16 to 20 year olds there dont have any problems when it comes to alcohol is because they grew up with it. They dont see it as a big deal. They think getting their drivers license is a big deal when in america its not a big deal but being able to drink is. Most countrys drinking as is anywhere from 16-18 because if they learn about alcohol at a younger age they understand it better. Where as americans tend to do things that “they arent supposed to do” i bet a european kid can go to a bar and have a few beers and not cause any trouble as to where an american kid will get trashed cause all he knows about alcohol is that it can get you drunk. Theres no balance usually… but i say they are old enough to go to casino’s and spend money, get married, join the military, legally become an adult…then they should have the “adult” decision to drink if they want to. maybe then if its actually legal for an 18 year old in america to drink they wont even see it as a big deal anymore and pry not even do it as much.. thats just my opinion on this topic. Everybody has one but in the end shit wont change 🙂

        • April 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm #

          Our sister married a Basque guy and has raised her family in France, and I can say I agree with you Tim. My niece and nephew don’t think alcohol is a big deal and know how to handle themselves.

          It’s not the same in America, where most kids have no skills for dealing with alcohol or other matters because the subject is dealt with in a rather puritanical manner.

          It’s kinda like Catholic school girls or the repressed kid who goes to college. They have no idea how to handle forbidden fruit and wind up succumbing to its basest charms.

  4. johnking82
    April 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    When is the legalize pot thread coming up?

    I agree with Mr. Short, make the change as a whole, not just for the military.

    • April 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Agreed. I also like how he’s ready to support the laws and interests of the United States, regardless of how they affect him personally.

      Especially because he’s 20, and it’s going to be more than a year before the law will see the light of day, so it really doesn’t affect him. I’d be all high and might, too. 🙂

  5. johnking82
    April 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    I think we’d all have different views if they were drinking Midnight Sun instead of Heineken and Bud Light in the picture.

  6. April 12, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    Think about it logically: why does the law prohibit <21 year olds from drinking? Because it's too dangerous for them. But sending through boot camp and sending them to a foreign countries with bullets wizzing by their heads and IEDs blowing up – that's perfectly safe. What the government is saying is that a <21 year old is actually in MORE danger drinking alcohol in America than going to war! Absolutely ridiculous.

    You know why kids under 21 want to drink? Because they're not allowed to! Havent we learned anything about "forbidden fruit" in the thousands of years of humanity on this planet?

    Can't we look at other countries where the drinking age is 16 and realize they're not all out of control?

    If you want kids to stop acting like kids, treat them like adults.

    BTW there's a similar measure proposed in New Hampshire. Check out this video of a reporter talking to a 16 year old who says people <21 don't have the cognitive ability to know what's right and wrong – except when it comes to going to war.

    • April 12, 2011 at 10:59 am #

      Can’t say anything but I agree. I’m raising my kids to live by their wits.

    • April 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

      Wow, that girl in the video is an embarrassment for so many reasons.

  7. April 17, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Legal As She Is Spoke, the legal journalism blog at New York Law School, analyzes how Alaska’s proposal to lower the drinking age for the military would hold up in court: http://www.lasisblog.com/2011/04/16/join-the-military-in-the-alaska-crack-open-a-bud/

  8. April 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Well, Alaska couldn’t lower the drinking age, for anyone, without losing a good chunk of federal highway funds, under the federal law that conditions some federal highway funding to states on those states raising their legal drinking age to 21.

    And we know how much Alaska loves the federal government teat.

    • April 20, 2011 at 10:50 am #

      Yup -$17,000,000.00 is hard to turn down.

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