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The Politics of Hunting in Pennsylvania

In the past week, Pennsylvania residents have been subjected to TV ads featuring U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick firing a series of weapons, showing his experience as a teenage hunter, a West Point cadet and a solider in Iraq.

“I’m Dave McCormick and I approve this message to protect the second amendment because that’s what guarantees the rest.”

Today, Mehmet Oz released a new ad showing the celebrity doctor from New Jersey handling a rifle, explaining how his father taught him about how to handle a rifle and that he is passing along the same lesson to his son.

“It’s about our constitutional right to protect ourselves from intruders or an overly intrusive government,” said Oz in his ad.

Four years ago, Conor Lamb introduced himself to the Commonwealth with a video that stated he served four years in the Marines. “Still loves to shoot.”

In 2020, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reported over 887,000 general hunting licenses for residents of the Commonwealth. The Commission estimated hunters took 435,180 deer during the 2020-21 seasons.

“No other state in the Northeast can match those numbers, not even when taking landmass into account,” the Game Commission wrote highlighting the season.

Pennsylvania by the numbers
– Percent of residents with paid hunting licenses: 7.3% (24th out of 50 states)
– Total paid hunting license holders: 930,815
– Total hunting license, tags, permits and stamps: 2,646,720
– Gross cost of all hunting licenses: $36,873,199

But this appears to be more than just about hunting for sport.

A little over a decade ago, the Supreme Court redefined the Second Amendment. Before then, in the eyes of the federal courts, the amendment protected the rights of state militias to bear arms — not the rights of individual Americans. That all changed in 2008 with the stroke of a pen.

The scale of Second Amendment arms puts firearms into context. To be sure, Americans possess hundreds of millions of guns. But researchers trace most firearms to multiple-gun owners, and about half to “super-owners” — the three percent of the adult population that owns 17 guns on average.

Most eligible Americans do not possess firearms, and the percentage of households that do has dropped in recent decades, according to one commonly cited survey, from 47 percent in 1980 to 31 percent in 2014. On an individual level, that survey found that only 22 percent of American adults own a firearm; 78 percent do not. Far more people own knives for the basic reason that they have broader utility in day-to-day life. Some Second Amendment scholars have called knives “the most common ‘arm’ in the United States.”

Politicians supported by gun rights groups similarly assume that the Second Amendment is just about guns. In fact, the Republican Party’s official platform conflates gun rights and Second Amendment rights:

“We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution and is secured by the Second Amendment. Lawful gun ownership enables Americans to exercise their God-given right of self-defense for the safety of their homes, their loved ones, and their communities.”

As the days count down to the primary election on May 17, we will continue to see candidates utilizing “hunting” and firearms to make their case for who is the most “Pennsylvanian.”

12 Responses

  1. Let’s talk some TRUTH here: Law abiding gun owners have always had and have even today, the protection of the 2nd Amendment. No one is going to take your guns away or stop you from purchasing any weapon permitted for sale in the United States. The government at some level has always confiscated guns from criminals or mentally unstable persons. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

    NOW, yes there have been certain attempts to remove certain types / classifications of weapons from the market place. But, the gun manufacturers have enough political and economic clout that they can pretty much dictate what does and doesn’t get enacted. And even if some classification of weapon becomes illegal, you know the industry will design and develop a new product to fill the void.

    POLITICAL TRUTH – Pro-Life and 2nd Amendment are just 2 issues that the manipulators use to rile up certain base voters to keep them from realizing what is going on with the transfer to and capture of wealth by a small percentage of individuals.

    I grew up in a house with plenty of rifles, pistols and ammo properly secured and only used for sport and recreation. From the earliest age, my father and grandfather made sure my brothers and I understood proper respect and use of the firearms our family owned. It was never a political consideration or issue. Politically, my father was a union Democrat and my grandfather was a rural farm raised Republican who worked in the coal mines before unions and he struggled to breathe due to black lung issues. They argued constantly about Nixon, Watergate, Milton Shapp and who should be elected – but guns were never part of the debate.

    Point is, see what we’ve become. I’m sure if they were both still alive today and witnessed elementary school children gunned down in classrooms, they wouldn’t be arguing about it, they would be demanding those responsible be held accountable and YES that weapons should not be available to people who would commit such a heinous crime.

  2. Hunting discussions are interesting but the Teddy Daniels legal matter is so powerful in the R Gov race because it presents so many distractions when the R Party least needs it (aside from the obvious personal issues). Daniels get the R Lt Gov nod he will have to resign and that sets up a stumbling out of the block for the R Gov candidate. The R Gov side seems cursed this cycle. Less than optimal candidates. All kinds of problems.

  3. If applications for firearm buying are any guide more firearms are owned now than at any time in American history. Background checks have set monthly records several times over the past years. Interesting that you quote a survey from 2014 I think current information would have a different result.

    1. Or maybe the guide should be the rise in multiple gun deaths from shooters using modern military technology, such as AR-15 and the like.

  4. You really shouldn’t misrepresent the 2nd Amendment and the court’s interpretation thereof. Heller confirmed the 2nd Amendment as an individual right…it didn’t change anything, since the term “militia” as found in the Federalist Papers, is confirmed to mean “the whole people” and not the National Guard, which can be federalized at the whim of the President. Militias at the time of the writing of the constitution were local organizations made up of private citizens.

    1. OK then smarty-pants, you can have all the flintlocks you want. I note that they are single-shot firearms and laborious to reload. Since you want to be an originalist or literalist, 2nd Amendment only permits gun technology in existence at the time of writing the Constitution. LOL

  5. So obvious that McCormick and Oz feel awkward holding a rifle so improperly. Reminds me of Dukakis riding in a tank. Unnatural.

  6. Oddly asinine that hunting is conflated with a psychological need to have an AR-15 with 50-round clip and bump stock.

    1. “clip”? “50 rd”? I see you have the firearm knowledge of the typical lefty, or little girl (same).

      1. I must have touched a nerve that feel compelled to defend your manhood so stupidly and in ignorance.

  7. Being anti hunting is a problem in PA politics. Conflating hunting with background checks is a toll effectively used to derail even minor national gun reform. Interesting discussion but even though I don’t own a firearm nor hunt I don’t want to stop others. background checks and waiting periods nationally is not a big ask.

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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