There is a scene in the movie Witness where the young Amish boy, Samuel, finds John Book's (played Harrison Ford) gun and is caught by his grandfather holding the offending object. The grandfather gives him a stern lecture about how owning guns is taboo and that violence is not to be condoned. Now, I suppose one caveat about that scene is that Samuel Lapp found a pistol, a service revolver, from a policeman. Many Amish would view that type of gun differently than a hunting rifle.
Another scene in the movie shows Rachel Lapp (played by Kelly McGillis) admonishing John Book for keeping a gun around. So he stores his gun behind some canned peaches and the bullets in a tin of flour.
While the movie Witness was pure Hollywood, they did have consultants on set to keep some things true to Amish life so part of me wonders if they did find some Lancaster County Amish (where the movie was set) who were viscerally opposed to guns. But, in my experience, Amish antipathy toward guns is rare.
The reality is many Amish men own hunting rifles because hunting because food sustenance and self-sufficiency is very much a part of Amish culture. And it is not terribly uncommon in some Amish communities for the women to get in on deer hunting.
The Amish have a complex relationship with guns. On the one hand, they believe in nonviolence and pacifism. They believe that it is wrong to use violence to solve problems.
As a result of these conflicting beliefs, the Amish have different views on gun ownership. Some Amish do not own guns at all. They believe that owning a gun is a form of violence and that it is inconsistent with their beliefs. Other Amish do own guns, but they only use them for hunting. They believe that it is important to be able to protect themselves, but they do not want to use violence unless they absolutely have to.
And no discussion about the Amish and guns would be complete without mentioning the shooting at the Nickle Mines school, which left 5 Amish schoolchildren dead and others serious injured. A deranged gunman - non-Amish- walked into the school and started shooting. No motive has ever been determined. So the Amish have also been touched by gun violence, but their forgiveness of the shooter in the aftermath is what really inspired people.
⚖️ The Amish and Gun Laws
The Amish do run up against gun laws in various ways, whether it a photo ID requirement to purchase a firearm or in some cases violating other laws. Amish farmer Reuben King was busted by the ATF last year for illegally selling guns from his Lancaster County dairy farm. He is fighting the charges. But local news sources say:
After three undercover buys of firearms, ATF agents gave King a cease-and-desist letter in 2020 ordering him to stop selling firearms until he obtained a federal license. He continued selling guns, according to court documents.
ATF agents raided King’s farm in January 2022. They found 625 rifles and shotguns and more than 10,500 rounds of ammunition. Court documents said agents found “detailed records showing thousands of purchases and sales of longarms over many years.”
In June 2022, King was charged with dealing in firearms without being licensed to do so.
While this type of blatant gun operation is rare, it is not uncommon for some Amish entrepreneurs to sell a few on the side.
🔫 Are the Amish Skilled Hunters?
Yes, most Amish boys learn the skills of hunting from their father and grandfathers and those are passed down and honed from one generation to the next. An Amish man in 2006 Adams County, Ohio bagged a record-setting deer at the time for Ohio, downing a 36-point buck with a bow. Pictures of the downed deer went viral.
❓ Amish and Guns FAQ
While federal law requires a photo ID to buy a gun from a license dealer, many states have "carve outs" exempting the Amish who typically don't allow photos of themselves. Some Amish, however, do allow for photos and will present a photo ID. So there's no clear cut answers on this.
This varies also, but typically hunting rifles are favored by the Amish. Handguns are much more rare.
While the Amish will own guns for hunting, they generally eschew violence of any kind, which includes military service.
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