Sen. Bill Nelson’s 2nd Amendment Litmus Test: Only Hunting Rifles Protected

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) justified his call to reconsider the legality of AR-15s by suggesting that an “AR-15 is not for hunting, it’s for killing.”

The intimation is that rifles for hunting are protected by the Second Amendment, while rifles without a hunting purpose are open to heavy regulation and/or prohibition.

He made this clear during a February 15 appearance on Fox & Friends, wherein he described ARs as “automatic military assault rifles” that were federally banned from 1994 to 2004.

The Tampa Bay Times transcribed Nelson’s Fox & Friends appearance:

This is a mental health problem and we’ve got to face the fact that this is an automatic military assault weapon. I want you to know I grew up on a ranch. I have grown up with guns. I have hunted all my life. I hunt with my son still. An AR-15 is not for hunting, it’s for killing. And the question is, should this be a legal weapon in our society? Just think, all of these children are our children and if we were the parents of one of those children, if we thought that it was not easy to get an assault weapon, we might be thinking that one less child was dead. The fact is we can’t make our schools armed camps. I mean, that’s just not practical and it’s not reflective of our open society.

On February 16 NBC News tweeted a short statement from Nelson wherein he claimed to support the Second Amendment, “the right to bear arms,” and went on to praise hunting rifles while describing the AR-15 as a genre of firearms designed solely for “killing”:

On January 20, 2017, the Washington Post published a “White Paper” from ATF Associate Deputy Director Ronald Turk. In it, Turk suggested the ATF studies on AR-15s and similar rifles should be re-evaluated because the rifles have become so popular for hunting and sport:

Since the sunset of the Assault Weapons ban in 2004, the use of AR-15s, AK-style, and similar rifles now commonly referred to as “modern sporting rifles” has increased exponentially in sport shooting. These firearm types are now standard for hunting activities. ATF could re-examine its 20-year-old study to bring it up to date with the sport shooting landscape of today, which is vastly different that it was years ago.

Translation: AR-15s are extremely popular hunting rifles. But even if they were not, it would important to remember that the Second Amendment was put in place to protect firearms in “common use” throughout every generation of Americans.

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets with AWR Hawkins, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at Sign up to get Down Range at


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.