108°F
weather icon Clear

Gun owners’ rights don’t get wronged

Friday is Independence Day, a day to celebrate the establishment of a broad spectrum of personal freedoms found in these United States and nowhere else. It’s a day to celebrate the inspiration, the intellect and enlightened vision of our nation’s founding fathers — a day to recognize and give thanks to those who spilled their blood and gave their all to see those freedoms established.

James Madison sought to protect what he viewed as our most important freedoms when he authored the Bill of Rights, comprised of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. Among them, he specifically identified the right to keep and bear arms, which, according to the Second Amendment, “shall not be infringed.” In recent decades, however, this fundamental liberty has been under relentless attack from within the halls of our own government, as well as from without.

For hunters, the loss of the right to keep and bear arms has obvious implications. If you take away the right to own firearms, you take away the ability to go hunting.

While sitting in a typical Las Vegas traffic jam a couple of weeks ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “The 2nd Amendment isn’t about duck hunting.”

My guess is the thought behind that sentiment is rooted in the politics of the day and the attempt by tiptoeing politicians to placate hunters with promises that their hunting firearms will not be among those restricted should gun control legislation pass. That the target of their gun control efforts are only those dastardly “assault weapons,” such as autoloading shotguns and .22 caliber rifles dressed up to resemble military style arms.

Never mind that many of us hunt a variety of fowl with the very autoloading or pump-action shotguns gun control advocates include on their list of so called assault weapons. Or that most of us grew up shooting targets and small game with .22 caliber rifles. Never mind that replacing the traditional stock on a Ruger 10/22 with a black, composite stock and flash suppressor does nothing more than change the firearm’s appearance.

Ironically, as I sat there pondering the meaning of that bumper sticker, members of the U.S. Supreme Court were pondering the meaning of the Second Amendment as they worked out their decision in District of Columbia et al., v Heller. Their decision was released June 26, and by a 5-4 vote, the court held “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service to the militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

Obviously, legal hunting activity and recreational shooting are among those traditionally lawful purposes. So I suppose one could argue that the Second Amendment is about duck hunting and deer hunting and target shooting — just as it is about self-defense.

In a statement issued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, that organization’s president, Steve Sanetti, said:

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a major victory for all Americans. The Heller decision reaffirms the wisdom of our founding fathers in creating the Bill of Rights to protect and preserve individual rights, the cornerstone of our democracy. Furthermore, this decision solidifies a historical fact, the common-sense understanding that governments have powers, not rights — rights are reserved exclusively for individuals.”

In its decision, delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court reiterated: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner and for whatever purpose.”

The court noted that some limitations, such as those affecting concealed carrying, have been upheld under the amendment, as have laws forbidding the carry of firearms in sensitive places such as schools.

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, vowed the organization’s “fight to enact sensible gun laws will be undiminished by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller case.”

In the meantime, I will wake up Friday and revel in the court’s decision by taking my family out for a day of recreational shooting, and in so doing will exercise one of those fundamental, individual liberties specifically identified in the Bill of Rights.

Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is published Thursday. He can be reached at doug@takinitoutside.com

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Respect for public lands will keep them open

For lovers of the outdoors, one of the greatest things about living in the American West is the vast amount of publicly owned land that is available to us.

Remembering ‘The Wild Man,’ who lived life to the fullest

Some of you will remember Hyrum Nielsen as the young boy whose outdoor exploits were documented in this column as he grew from boy to man and eventually left home.

Extra caution should be observed when fishing from kayaks

According to a U.S. Coast Guard 2017 report on recreational boating accidents, the second largest number of deaths occurred while people were using a kayak.

Book offers tips on uses for Swiss Army knife

The book focuses on using the Swiss Army knife in various survival situations, but the tips can be tailored to just about any quality knife or multitool.

Big game hunting options still abound in nearby states

That audible groan of disappointment you heard Friday morning came from folks like me who woke up to the disappointing news that they had failed to draw a 2019 Nevada big game tag.

Courtesy goes a long way among Southern Nevada campers

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of camping season for many Las Vegas area residents and roads will be packed with folks looking to escape for a few days.

A look at Lake Mead water levels leads to other adventures

A lucky wrong turn on the internet resulted in a gold mine of outdoor data beginning with research on the impacts of our wet winter on water levels at Lake Mead.

Ammunition company introduces newest cartridge for hunters

The 350 Legend is a straight-walled cartridge designed for deer-sized game and sport shooting, and Winchester Ammunition says it’s the fastest such cartridge in the world.

Illegal stocking causes trout havoc at Utah reservoir

The trout fishery many Southern Nevada anglers have enjoyed through the years is gone. For the time being anyway. In fact, you won’t even find it listed on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources digital fishing planner.