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Lawmaker Proposes $1,000 Fine For Underage Cell Phone Use To Make Point About Gun Bans

By  Eric Quintanar
Employees assist customers with Apple Inc. iPhone X smartphones during the sales launch at a store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017. The $1,000 price tag on Apple Inc.'s new iPhone X didn't deter throngs of enthusiasts around the world who waited -- sometimes overnight -- in long lines with no guarantee they would walk out of the store with one of the coveted devices.
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

John Rodgers, a long-time Democratic lawmaker from the state that brought us socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), proposed a law this week to ban anyone under 21 years of age from using or possessing a cell phone in Vermont. 

“The use of cell phones while driving is one of the leading killers of teenagers in the United States,” reads the text of the bill. “According to the United States Department of Transportation, cell phones are involved in 1.6 million automobile crashes each year, causing half a million injuries and 6,000 deaths.”

The text of the bill then focuses on teenage cell phone usage, noting that “young people frequently use cell phones to bull and threaten other young people, activities that have been linked to many suicides.” Furthermore, the bill states, cell phones are the primary means people use to access the internet and social media, which “are used to radicalize and recruit terrorists, fascists, and other extremists,” and that mass shooters have used cell phones to conduct “research” on mass shootings. If the bill becomes law, unlawful cell phone users could be fined $1,000. 

While Rodgers acknowledges that the bill is unlikely to pass, the state senator told the local Times Argus that he was just using the proposal to make a point about the safety of cell phones. 

I have no delusions that it’s going to pass. I wouldn’t probably vote for it myself,” said Rogers, a Second Amendment supporter who believes that cell phones present a bigger threat than guns. Vermont recently passed a law banning adults under 21 from purchasing a gun unless they pass a course in hunting safety, reports the news agency. 

“In light of the dangerous and life-threatening consequences of cell phone use by young people, it is clear that persons under 21 years of age are not developmentally mature enough to safely possess them, just as the General Assembly has concluded that persons under 21 years of age are not mature 10 enough to possess firearms, smoke cigarettes, or consume alcohol,” concludes the bill. 

Pew Research Center reported last year that approximately nine out of 10 teenagers use cell phones to “pass time,” and that roughly 43% of teenagers use cell phones to “avoid face-to-face interactions.” Researchers also found that 56% of teenagers “associate the absence of their phone with at least one of three emotions: Loneliness, being upset, or feeling anxious.” 

The study also found that more than half of teenagers are concerned that they “spend too much time on their phone.”

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, “sending or reading a text” while driving at 55 miles per hour for five seconds is similar to “driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

While the overwhelmingly Democratic State Senate in Vermont has not approved the proposal to ban teenage cell phone usage, National Geographic reported last June that the state had taken strong steps to ban plastic products. 

According to the news agency, “the nation’s broadest restrictions yet on shopping bags, straws, drink stirrers, and foam food packaging” will go into effect in July 2020.

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