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Notes from the mom of a teenager: Getting a license

2/4/2013
Most American kids are eager to get their driver’s license. My son James turned 16 on October 3, and by October 19 he had his Learner’s Permit. This means he studied the Driver’s Manual, walked to the Department of Motor Vehicles where he passed a test (he had to take it twice, $30 fee each time) on the content of the Driver’s Manual (156 pages), and took a vision test. He needed parental consent, proof of his date of birth, and his social security card. He was organized enough and motivated enough to have all this stuff with him. Now he could start learning how to drive.
 
The book from the Registry of Motor Vehicles on how to obtain a driver’s license is 44 pages. James enrolled in a driver’s ed class ($375), which is another way to learn what you have to do to get a license. He chose the intensive course held over winter break. As a parent, I am required to go to a three-hour class (included in the cost of the course). James’s dad and I must log forty hours in the car with James at the wheel, and James logs 12 hours with a trained driving instructor and six hours sitting in the back of a car driven by a student driver, as an observer before he can take his road test.
 
Not sooner than six months from when he gets his permit, James takes his road test ($20) with a police officer. Then, if he passes his road test, and gets his driver’s license ($50), he may drive only in daylight hours and not with anyone under 18 who is not in his family for the next six months, unless a parent is with him.
 
The driver’s education makes our auto insurance less expensive, which is good because males between the ages of 16 and 34 have the very highest insurance rates as drivers. If James has a B average in school, we get an additional discount. (Who has time to drive if studying to get a B average?)
 
I am grateful for the hoops a 16-year-old has to jump through before granting him a license to drive a car, even if he is not.
 
On the other hand, I am not so impressed with what James would have to do to use or buy a gun. So, with help from Sheila, we found what we needed to know, (but had no intention of doing):
At age 15, he could have gotten parental consent and taken a one-time four-hour firearms safety course ($95). To the local police department he could have brought the certificate from the safety course, an application, and $25 (the fee for 15-17 year olds). The police would have fingerprinted him and done a background check using the information on the application. In two to six weeks, he would have gotten his Firearms Identification Card (FID). The FID permits him to “purchase, possess and carry any non-large capacity rifle, shotgun and ammunition.” In Massachusetts at age 21 he could then apply for Class A LTC (License to Carry), which is the same as the FID plus the ability to purchase, possess and carry a semi-automatic handgun or rifle that is capable of accepting more than ten rounds, a shotgun capable of accepting more than five shotgun shells, and/or an?assault weapon. As far as I can tell, no additional safety course is necessary for the Class A LTC, however there is an additional fee of $100.