Justice Antonin Scalia Was A Strong Advocate For Gun Rights And Hunting

It is difficult to ponder at this time precisely what impact the untimely death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will have on gun rights and hunting freedoms. Certainly the aftermath can be breathtakingly catastrophic, depending on a litany of “what ifs.”

Superlatives fall short of describing the man and his lifelong commitment to the country and its Constitution. I met Justice Scalia at least a couple of times and remain in awe of his brilliance, his wit and his sagacity.

Although hunting and guns in their individual narrow senses are two different matters, they are inexorably tied when it comes to both rights and freedoms. Justice Scalia not only understood this phenomenon in the United States, but he also literally lived it. To wit: he died while on a hunting trip.

Obviously, Justice Scalia’s Constitutionalistisms (if that can be a real word) tipped the “balance” on the Supreme Court. There were 5-4 decisions during his tenure when he represented the fifth vote that determined the decision.

READ MORE: AR-15 Case Could Wind Up In Supreme Court

Until his replacement is seated on the court, there is a presumptive 4-4 deadlock in certain kinds of cases. I’ll not go into the details of what happens in such instances, but suffice it to say that at those kinds of times, the legal power of lower courts takes front stage.

If his replacement has a different interpretation of the Constitution, then it is logical to expect 5-4 decisions that go the other way.

The Supreme Court has not ruled on very many Second Amendment cases. But in recent times, it was Justice Scalia who made the deciding difference, which has resulted in decisions that are appreciated by gun owners, shooters and hunters.

For example, imagine the far-reaching results if the Second Amendment were to be interpreted definitively as not an individual right. Private ownership of firearms literally could disappear with that single stroke of the pen/gavel, so to speak.

Absent the protections of the Second Amendment, hunting is threatened tremendously because there then would be no presumption of an ability to own and use the primary implements of the hunt.

It would take an entire treatise to discuss this matter properly – much more than the space here allows. Suffice it to say that when it comes to guns and hunting, this country never has faced a situation that has the potential to erase so quickly and so completely the traditions, customs and rights that have been held dear by patriots since the beginning.

Or, put another way: during his time on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia routinely represented a firewall, protecting freedoms from the forces that would take those freedoms away.

Rarely does a single individual make such a significant difference to so many people in so many ways. Regardless how things turn out, one thing is certain. Guns and hunting have lost a champion with the passing of Justice Scalia.

There are a lot of smart people out there, and there are other champions of freedoms and the Constitution. If that kind of person fills the vacancy, there is hope. If the opposite kind of person fills that vacancy, it will truly be a sad day in Mudville.

Potentially, this development easily could be devastating. But I like to think positively and imagine that the replacement will be someone who respects and follows the Constitution. If so, we win and the country wins.