Hunting and the Second Amendment


Debates about the meaning and scope of the Second Amendment have traditionally focused on whether it protects the keeping and bearing of arms for self-defense, prevention of tyranny, maintenance of the militia, or some combination of those three things. But roughly half of American gun-owners identify hunting or sport shooting as their primary reason for owning a gun. And while much public rhetoric suggests that these activities fall within the scope of the Second Amendment, some of the most committed gun-rights advocates insist that the Amendment “ain’t about hunting” and that, no matter their heritage and value, such activities are constitutionally irrelevant. This Article argues that these advocates are mostly correct, and that hunting and recreational uses of arms have, at best, a tenuous claim to constitutional protection. This conclusion has implications not only for the potential regulation of hunting and shooting sports, but for broader issues such as determining which arms are “in common use” and therefore protected by the Second Amendment. At a more general level, it suggests that an important and influential part of American gun culture—populated by tens of millions of guns and gun owners—is simultaneously protected and regulated without the direct involvement of the Second Amendment.

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