Reaching the age of retirement and becoming eligible for government-funded pension benefits is a cause of celebration for many individuals.  However, for Americans who wish to exercise their Second-Amendment right to bear firearms, turning 65 may not be as happy an occasion as it once was.

American citizens become eligible for full Social Security benefits upon reaching the age of 65.  President Obama has recently announced plans to limit the ability of recipients of Social Security benefits to obtain and retain possession of guns.

If the proposed change is implemented, background checks conducted when individuals purchase guns will include a review of Social Security records.  Further, firearm registries may be reviewed to ensure that certain recipients of Social Security in possession of guns are identified and their weapons are confiscated.  The change in policy also impacts individuals who suffer from mental illnesses, who also receive social benefits.

President Obama has stated that the intention is to target individuals who fall under the federal firearm laws description of having “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”  However, approximately 4.2 million American adults receive benefits through Social Security that are managed by another person.  These people will be unable to purchase or possess firearms, despite the fact that not all of the individuals will fit into the target group of those whose access to guns is considered unsafe.

The issue in the proposed administrative change is that a person may receive assistance from another person in the administration of his or her affairs without having compromised mental capacities.  Critics of President Obama’s plan insist that seniors are a vulnerable group of society who are most likely in need of guns to protect themselves due to age-related decline in physical strength and increased frailty.  The inability to possess firearms is suggested to improperly compromise their constitutional right on the basis of age.

While this development in unlikely to affect the lives of Canadians, it is an example of the infringement of rights of the basis of age, whether or not justified by increased rates of cognitive decline, and it will be interesting to see whether the proposal withstands further review.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer