EDITORIAL: Bill to delay legal drinking oversteps boundaries
Our View: Delaying drinking for seven hours will not keep 21-year-olds safer.
Amid the stream of pointless and ridiculous bills introduced to Oklahoma’s Legislature this session is HB 3100, which would ban the sale of alcohol to people before 7 a.m. on their 21st birthday.
Admittedly, this bill does seem to have its heart in the right place. Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, who introduced the bill, said it was intended to prevent binge drinking during the two hours between when patrons turn 21 at midnight and when the bars and stores stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m.
The assumption seems to be that legally forcing 21-year-olds to wait until the next day to drink will encourage them to do so in a more responsible way, or at least over a longer time span. We can see the logic in that, but only if we ignore a couple of key facts.
First of all, people are going to drink as much as they want to drink. Those who choose to participate in the 21 shots tradition will drink them regardless, and the addition of two more hours will do little to change that behavior or its effects. Those who don’t participate will drink at the same rate no matter if they are in the bar for two or four hours.
There’s no reason to assume that rate would be slower if they had more time to drink.
And there is no magical quality to that one night that makes people drink more. It’s about the celebration, which can just as easily happen the night after one turns 21.
Anyone tempted to drink to the point of health risk during those two hours on their 21st birthday is probably just as likely to drink to excess at other times as well. Add to that the fact that this risk only applies to a small proportion of the population — many people manage to drink responsibly even on their 21st birthday — and this bill starts to look both pointless and ineffective.
But even putting all of that aside, there’s still the fact that one of Oklahoma’s legislators seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable for the state to mandate personal responsibility and interfere with individuals’ private lives over a perfectly legal behavior.
Bottom line: This is a vast overreach of state power into an area that should not be legislated, particularly not for such slight gain.
The time and resources the Legislature may spend debating and implementing this bill would be much better spent on education and resources to help stop alcohol poisoning and combat the negative effects of binge drinking in a wider context.
Overconsumption of alcohol is a serious issue for both the college-aged population and the country at large. It’s good to see the Oklahoma Legislature finally focusing on an important issue amid the political ploys and outrageous bills of this session. But legislators should be seeking effective solutions, not poorly thought out Band-Aids.