Opposition to deer hunting with handguns can’t agree on why it’s wrong

A change in deer hunting laws in Delaware, providing more opportunities for the use of handguns, has (predictably) drawn some criticism. Amusingly, though, not only does the criticism not agree with facts and logic, it doesn’t even agree with itself.

On the one hand, we have Scott Vogel, of the outrageously misnamed “Freedom States Alliance,” who argues that handguns used for deer hunting are “too powerful.”

The Freedom States Alliance is a national nonprofit organization that is dedicated to reducing gun-related deaths and injuries through public awareness campaigns. According to the FSA Web site, .50 caliber guns have effective ranges up to 2,000 yards, or 20 football fields laid end to end. Deer hunters typically shoot at ranges of 150-200 yards.

.50 caliber rifles can be effective at that range (in the hands of an extremely skilled shooter), but a .50 caliber handgun (like the .500 S&W Magnum) could be fired all day (assuming the shooter’s ability to sustain that kind of recoil, and his wallet’s ability to sustain the ammo costs, permitted it) without the intended target ever noticing he was being fired at. By the way, Delaware law does not require that deer-hunting handguns be of .50 caliber–and most hunters who choose to take the opportunities offered by this rule change will probably not go out and buy one.

“We don’t support this change,” said Scott Vogel, communications director of FSA. “A .50-caliber handgun can easily puncture a police officer’s vest.”

Probably–but no more easily than any deer rifle (and probably less easily than most deer rifle cartridges). Besides, do Delaware police have a habit of disguising themselves as deer during hunting season–why is a hunting gun’s ability to defeat body armor even an issue?

On the other hand, we get the argument that handguns are not powerful enough to hunt deer.

The Humane Society of the United States worries not only about the safety of the hunter but of the deer. The group worries that deer shot by handguns would suffer needlessly.

“If the hunters were truly interested in a quick and painless death for the deer, they would not use a handgun,” said Casey Pheiffer, campaign manager of the Wildlife Abuse Campaign for the Humane Society.

Granted, the range at which a deer can be humanely taken is probably less, in most cases, with a handgun than with a rifle. Within that range, though, with adequate care on the part of the hunter, a powerful handgun is quite up to the task of ethical deer hunting, and will probably in most cases kill a deer more quickly than can generally be done with bow and arrow. Besides, my guess is that being torn about by wolves or a mountain lion is probably less than pleasant, too–that’s one of the downsides of being helpless prey.

“Helpless prey,” by the way, is exactly what citizen disarmament advocacy groups like the Freedom States Alliance would like to make us.


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