On the Second Amendment and Hunting

On the Second Amendment and Hunting

In my post arguing that the Founders wanted you to own AR-15, I contend that there was no mention of “hunting” during drafting debates over the Bill of Rights. Professor Joseph Olson reminds me that the debates over ratification of the Bill of Rights in Pennsylvania did indeed mention hunting. (I write about this in detail in my cultural history of the gun .) Here was the excellent suggestion offered by the Pennsylvania Ratifying Convention on the topic of arms: That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil powers. James Madison ended up simplifying and distilling many suggestions, throwing in a comma that would be seized upon many years later. But the debate on ratification was over militias and standing armies, never over individual ownership of guns. Hunting was likely only mentioned in the Pennsylvania convention as a precaution against English-style restrictions on ownership. The most famous example, the Game Act of 1671, made possession of a firearm by anyone unqualified to hunt (read, common […]

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