Hunting, Morality, and Gun Control

san bernardino mass shooting

With the mass shootings over the past few years, there has been an increased demand by the public for greater gun controls. Counter-point to these demands is positions by the NRA, hunting, and other groups. The issue is complex and battle lines are drawn. Unfortunately there appears to be no middle ground and any attempts to sway opinion or convince someone to change their point of view are about nil at best.

Amidst this debate two of my favorite backpacking personalities, two very accomplished and knowledge men, Andrew Skurka and Dave Chenault have become hunters and are now writing about their new hobbies. I have read disparaging remarks towards both of them from the animal rights people. Not that I can sway anyone’s thoughts on this issue either, but I thought I would comment on the whole volatile discourse on the morality of hunting and the larger gun control issue.

I should preface my comments with the following information:

  • I have never hunted
  • I have never owned a firearm
  • I have been robbed at gunpoint twice in my life
  • I was trained in the use of firearms in the military


Many hunters and backpackers have a lot in common. The hunter who hunts in the backcountry must carry the same gear as a backpacker in addition to hunting equipment, and have the ability to pack out large quantities of meat. The hunter must be an expert cross-country navigator to stalk game; whereas most backpackers tend to stay on well-maintained trails. The hunter must know how to locate and track game, requiring a skill far beyond the typical backpacker. Hunting season often is during parts of the year when weather is an additional obstacle – the time of year when many backpackers stop hiking and put their gear into storage. Bottom line, a hunter must have skills far beyond the average backpacker. This aspect of hunting can provide useful information for the backpacker who wants to stray from the traditional walking paradigm.

Even though I occasionally will read about a hunting trip, I have no interest in engaging in the sport.


elmer fudd

Most hunters will defend their position by putting forth arguments of game management, conservation efforts by hunting groups, income derived from hunters to Government Agencies, and other good things hunters do. However, these are just statistics. They don’t address the more complex problem of whether or not hunting is moral – they have nothing to do with morality.

In the wild, animals have an instinct of self-preservation, that is: a programmed method of knowledge. Animals, like man, do have sensations and perception. Unlike animals, man does not have an instinct of self-preservation, so we cannot justify his desire to hunt as instinctive. Man, unlike animals does have volition. To survive he must integrate his perceptions into concepts by thinking. Man has the choice to survive or not survive – to survive man must think and then act. Part of the reason man evolved into a creature of volition was his ability to hunt. Unlike animals that hunt, man had to learn how to build tools to hunt, without tools man could not capture large animals required for his survival. I doubt most people would argue that early man was immoral because he hunted. Hunting was a requirement for his survival, and none of us would be here had our earliest ancestors not hunted.


Some argue that subsistence hunting is okay but sport hunting, or hunting for fun or pleasure, is immoral. I have read hunters state that a successful hunt and killing of an animal can be and often is pleasurable.

Sport Hunting Definition

To me, and in most of the United States, sport hunting requires that most species of game be harvested; that is: the edible meat must be removed and cared for consumption. This is not a requirement for bears, mountain lions and gray wolves. I do have reservations about hunting big game for the trophy only, but really haven’t given it detailed study.

Cecil the Lion
Cecil the Lion (from Wikipedia)



It seems that most who are against hunting, and even many sport hunters are unwilling to openly admit, the motivation is this: hunters enjoy the hunt and the kill.  The need to hunt stems from man’s ability to become the dominant species on the planet, this ability lies in the fact that man came down from the trees and hunted animals – this is man’s crucial evolutionary skill, it is what we have done for 99% of our time on earth. It is only in the past few centuries that agriculture has replaced hunting for most of mankind and the result has not been good for our health – modern man is typically overweight or obese with his biggest enemy no longer wild animals but physical ailments such as diabetes and heart disease.

The anti-hunters argue that man has evolved to the point where his mind is superior to his desires and the desire to hunt is no longer reasonable or acceptable, making hunting immoral. What was once moral – is no longer moral in their minds.

How can something suddenly change from being moral to immoral? What a conundrum. Time to check our premises… morality (and philosophy) is black or white. If something is moral, it is always moral. It cannot change over time.

Hunting isn’t immoral and it isn’t moral. It has nothing to do with morality, it has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is amoral.


declaration of independence

Man possesses volitional consciousness; animals do not. Animals do not have the ability for abstract thinking – they cannot conceptualize “rights.” Because they have no concept of rights, they cannot have rights. Oh, some would argue that infants and mentally challenged people do not have volitional consciousness, but they have the potential for volitional consciousness which separates them from animals.

So we cannot say hunting is immoral because animals have rights.

This doesn’t mean it is okay to torture animals or engage in sports such as bull fighting, cock fighting, or dog fighting.

Corky the Wonder Dog
Corky the Wonder Dog

Don’t assume I don’t care about animals. Our dog Corky gets better medical and dental care than we do. We always make sure he is comfortable and happy.

It is immoral to torture an animal just to watch it suffer. But what is immoral doesn’t necessarily make it illegal. It is immoral to tell a lie, but in most cases it is not illegal to lie unless lying causes harm or restricts the individual freedom of another human. Don’t confuse morality with legality. It is not Society’s place to legislate morality; Society’s only function is to protect the rights of the individual. Because it is immoral to abuse animals does not give animals legal rights. Hunting is not animal abuse, hunting provides food for the hunter, which supports man’s most important right, his right to live and pursue his own happiness. Remember that man’s individual rights require him not to deny the same rights to any other human.  Man is not bound to extend rights to animals.



After every tragic shooting we hear renewed demands from the Liberal Left for greater gun control, and the Conservative Right holds up the 2nd Amendment as a rebuttal. The issue is complicated as is the role of the Government when it comes to firearms.

The 2nd Amendment

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Let’s keep in mind that our world has changed since our founding fathers made the 2nd Amendment a basic right for all Americans. But what hasn’t changed is the fact that these men distrusted government and a well-armed citizenry would be able to overthrow a government that attempted to restrict those rights identified in the Declaration of Independence.

This Amendment doesn’t give the right to criminals who initiate force against others a right to own arms.

Complicated Issue

Government should have a role in the regulation of arms because we have given the Government a monopoly on the right to use force to enforce objective laws that protect our individual rights. Law enforcement often faces armed criminals and we do not want the criminals to be better armed than the law enforcement agencies that protect us.

As individuals we have the right to own firearms for self-defense and recreation such as target practice and hunting. Disarming the population is not something the Government is allowed to do or should be allowed to do.

Of course we should not permit individuals to own nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, tanks, grenades, artillery, fully automatic assault weapons and the like.

It is not unreasonable for the Government to require background checks and the registration of weapons to try and keep them out of the hands of criminals and the mentally incompetent. We do have the right to own defensive weapons, but in a civilized society there is no place or need for offensive weapons such as fully automatic rifles in the hands of its citizens.

We must protect the 2nd Amendment right to own weapons, but it isn’t our most important right – we should be more concerned with our basic individual freedom and right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights have been unjustly and illegally diminished through taxation, regulation, and way too many Government Agencies. We are becoming a socialist state, not the free Republic our forefathers established. The erosion of these rights far outweigh the debate over gun control.

Violence in America

Gun control is not going to reduce crime and guns are not the root cause of violence. The cause is the breakdown of the family.

Basically we have so much violence because of shitty parents.

Parents, who fail to recognize their responsibility to properly raise children, fail to teach them morals and ethics, fail to build and develop character in their kids. Parents who do not make sure their kids get a good education so they can be well-adjusted productive people. Too many parents expect the Government (i.e. schools and social services) to provide this role. Too many parents, who do not spend time developing their children, but allow them to live in a separate reality of video games and the Internet because the parents are just too busy or uninterested in their most important role: child rearing. This is the biggest cause of dysfunctional people in America – parents not accepting the responsibility for the children they bring into the world, resulting in an adult population of disenfranchised, mentally deficient people.

There is no legislation that is going to fix this problem. If we as a society cannot change this at the individual level, we have no hope to curb violence. The only solution is to remove the social safety nets for people who do not want to be responsible for their actions — that is, reduce Government, get rid off most of our Government Agencies, and hold people responsible for their actions.

What to Do?

I am never going to hunt and will probably never buy a firearm.

But if you want to do either, go ahead, its okay. Just educate yourself and follow the laws, best practices, and safety guidelines.

If you have children or will have children, raise them right. Be a real parent.

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