Bows are Not Firearms: Court Rules in Favor of Hunters

By Brodie SwisherFebruary 23, 20222 Comments

In many parts of the country, bowhunting within the city limits can be a struggle. 

Maybe you’ve heard it before…

“You can’t bowhunt in the city limits! Firearms aren’t allowed!” 

And therein lies the problem. In the minds of many people, a bow is no different than a gun. They lump the bow into the firearm category – and it’s a shame. 

A bow is not a firearm. And fortunately, one New York judge seems to get it, as evidenced by his recent ruling in favor of hunters on regulations separating bows from the firearm category. 

Bows Are Not Firearms: Court Rules In Favor Of Hunters
The bow is not a firearm, and city ordinances across the country should be honoring this fact.

New York State’s top court recently told the Town of Smithtown that a bow is not a firearm. The ruling undermines one basis for the town’s regulation of deer hunting within its borders.

A two-page memorandum from the state’s Court of Appeals with six of seven judges concurring, stems from a 2017 suit against the town by an East Quogue bowhunters advocacy group, Hunters For Deer. The group brought a suit over an ordinance that effectively banned discharge, not just of guns, but also slingshots and bows within much of the town. Like others across the country, the ordinance lumped all weapons into the firearm category.

The court’s memorandum upholding a lower court’s 2020 decision focused on a provision of state municipal law that authorizes about 20 towns throughout the state, including Smithtown and most other Suffolk County towns, to adopt firearms discharge regulations that are more restrictive than state law. While the law does not define the word firearm, that word is not usually understood to include bows, the judges found.

“We are unpersuaded that the legislature intended otherwise when it used the term,” they wrote. The state law “does not authorize Smithtown to regulate the discharge of bows.”

What about the town where you live? Are there ordinances that place the bow into the category of a firearm? Are these restrictions preventing your opportunities to hunt? 

Would you be willing to speak out about the matter in an effort to make a change? Comment below, and let us know what you think.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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