While the pursuit of knowledge in any discipline is a worthy endeavor unto itself, there are certain majors plenty of parents bemoan when their kids declare them either because of limited income potential or even more limited opportunities to actually find gainful employment (especially when the cost of college is factored in). Journalism, which was my choice at a time when newspapers and magazines still ruled the media landscape, was my choice and my dad tried everything short of forbidding me to pursue it, even pointing out what low starting pay journalists made. His arguments didn’t sway me, but he wasn’t wrong! My yearly salary for my first job with a weekly newspaper in 1992 was less than $17,000, crappy and borderline poverty level even back then.
Other seemingly and financially dead-end majors include degrees in literature, philosophy, social work, English, psychology, performing arts, counseling, education and history. Most lead only to paths in eventually teaching, which typically isn’t at the forefront of income generation, and while the world still needs all of the above, it can be tough going for anyone with champagne tastes…or merely a desire to live like everyone else and pay their bills.
But one of those areas of study, may be getting a little boost of late. National Public Radio (NPR) reports that historians, have oddly been in greater demand since the 2022 ruling by the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen declared that gun laws must be consistent with American tradition, making that a litmus test for whether new gun laws will past legal review under challenge.
Says NPR: “Historians have found themselves caught in the middle of America’s debate over gun control ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that firearms laws must be consistent with American ‘tradition.’”
The article goes on to say:
“What’s happening now is a fight over what the Second Amendment ultimately means,” says Chuck Michel, president and general counsel at the California Rifle & Pistol Association, which is suing the state over newly passed limits on concealed firearms. “This truly is a historic time for Second Amendment jurisprudence.”
Bruen has also created sudden, intense interest in research from people such as Brennan Gardner Rivas, an independent scholar who wrote her dissertation on the history of gun regulation in Texas.
“The states and attorneys general who are trying to defend their gun laws from challenges now have to seek out historians to identify analogous historical laws,” Rivas says. “They’ve all found me on their own through Googling me and looking up my publications and things like that.”
Rivas, who has consulted on more than a dozen cases since the landmark Bruen decision, says her work is a mixture of analyzing digitized collections of historical state laws, while also seeking out the “dusty archives” that might contain forgotten local or municipal ordinances. She says a prominent example of this was the ban on carrying guns in Tombstone, Ariz. — a ban that sparked the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881.
“I’m just always floored by how many regulations there were” in early America, Rivas says. “It seems like the more we dig, the more we find.”
The results of this kind of research have been collected in the Repository of Historical Gun Laws, maintained by the Duke Center for Firearms Law.
“It’s a searchable database that now is up to over 2,000 historical gun laws stretching from the medieval ages in England all the way up to about the 1920s or 1930s, which is when the federal government began to regulate firearms,” says Andrew Willinger, the center’s executive director. The repository was opened to the public in 2019.
They note the real wave in gathering historical information on gun regulations began with the landmark Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Second Amendment was finally declared—to the “no duh” of gun owners across the nation—to protect an individual’s right to possess a firearm.
Despite these rulings, as the gun law and ultimately culture wars rage on in America, there is always someone “fer it and agin it,” meaning there’s always people looking to interpret issues in ways that benefit their own beliefs.
Patrick J. Charles, who received a grant from an anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety to help fund his research for his book, Vote Gun: How Gun Rights Became Politicized in the United States, says in the NPR article that it isn’t difficult to find examples of laws that restricted firearms throughout history. But even so, that alone may not be enough.
“There’s plenty of laws out there — that’s not the issue,” Charles told NPR. “The [Supreme] Court said, ‘History and tradition.’ So, if I find two or three laws, the other side says, ‘That doesn’t constitute a tradition, because it’s just two or three laws.’”
Gun rights lawyers, such as Chuck Michel with the CRPA, that courts are correct in being very strict on which historical laws to consider.
“Before, we used to have junk statistics. Now we have this battle for junk historians,” Michel, was quoted in the article as saying. “The history that the states are putting out there is distorted, it’s twisted, it’s taken out of context. It’s not completely cited.”
Junk history or not, junk historians or not, the fact is it’s a good time to be a historian who specializes in firearms law, use, tradition and history thanks to Bruen. As the saying basically goes, “those who fail to learn their history are doomed to repeat it,” but in some cases, that’s not always a bad thing.
Check out the full NPR article here. It’s an interesting read.
Read the full article here