Saturday, June 11, 2022
Two Hundred Years of Guns.... What if you knew the outcome when you were writing the Second Amendment?
Alexander Merezhko, a good friend since he was a visiting Fulbright Scholar at Dickinson Law from his home country of Ukraine, is now a member of Ukraine's parliament and a senior legal advisor to President Zelenskyy. We email regularly about events in our respective countries; of course, there is a lot for us to discuss. Recently, Alexander mentioned that discussions were underway about legalizing individual gun ownership in his country. Suffice it to say, Professor Merezhko is worried about what happens after the war. It seems likely the assault by Russian forces motivates those debates in Ukraine, but what about the future? A similar struggle, America's own then-recent war for independence, was part of the context for the language of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, beginning with the words, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State...."
Could America's Founding Fathers have dreamed that the contextual phrase would be dismissed as significant and the remaining words of the Second Amendment would be treated as a mandate that permits unrestricted sales of weapons to individuals who are not part of any well-regulated system? There is a very interesting article with historical details I've never considered in The New Yorker, titled How Did Guns Get So Powerful?From the article by Phil Klay:
We wonder how we got here. How did guns grow so powerful—both technically and culturally? Like automobiles, firearms have grown increasingly advanced while becoming more than machines; they are both devices and symbols, possessing a cultural magnetism that makes them, for many people, the cornerstone of a way of life. They’re tools that kill efficiently while also promising power, respect, and equality—liberation from tyranny, from crime, from weakness. They’re a heritage from an imagined past, and a fantasy about protecting our future. It’s taken nearly two hundred years for guns to become the problem they are today. The story of how they acquired their power explains why, now, they are so hard to stop.
Why am I writing about guns (again) in the Elder Law Prof Blog? The need for better support for mental health for youth and elders is part of what needs to be addressed. Sadly, guns are part of a larger story not just for 18 year-olds in New York or Texas, but also for older Americans, as "firearm suicides are one of the leading causes of death for older Americans." See Firearm Suicides in the Elderly: A Narrative Review and Call for Action, published in 2021 in the Journal of Community Health.