The Act of May 8, 1909, of Pennsylvania, making it unlawful for
unnaturalized foreign born residents to kill wild game except in
defense of person or property, and, to that end, making the
possession of shotguns and rifles unlawful, is not unconstitutional
under the due process and equal protection provisions of the
Page 232 U. S. 139
A state may protect its wild game and preserve it for its own
citizens. Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.
A state may classify with reference to the evil to be
The determination of the class from which an evil is mainly to
be feared and specialized in the legislation is a practical one
dependent upon experience, and this Court is slow to declare that
the state legislature is wrong in its facts. Adam v.
Milwaukee, 228 U. S. 572
A state may direct its police regulations against what it deems
the evil as it actually exists, without covering the whole field of
possible abuse. Central Lumber Co. v. South Dakota,
227 U. S.
The provisions in Article II of the treaty with Italy giving
citizens of Italy the right to carry on trade on the same terms as
natives of this country, and provisions in the treaty with
Switzerland, applicable to citizens of Italy under the favored
nation clause in Article XXIV of the treaty with Italy, relate to
trade, and are not applicable to personal use of firearms, and a
state statute protecting wild game and prohibiting aliens from
owning shotguns and rifles is not incompatible with or violative of
such treaty provisions.
and not to be decided on this record, whether
the statute in this case can be construed as precluding an alien
from possessing a stock of guns for purposes of trade and whether,
in that event, it would violate rights under the treaty with Italy
Equality of rights assured to citizens of Italy under the treaty
of 1871 is that of protection and security for persons and
property, and nothing in that treaty purports or attempts to
prevent a state from exercising its power for preservation of wild
game for its own citizens.
231 Pa.St. 46 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the constitutionality of the wild game
statute of Pennsylvania making it unlawful for any unnaturalized
foreign born resident to kill wild birds or animals and the
validity of such statute as applied to an Italian citizen in view
of the treaty with Italy, are stated in the opinion.
Page 232 U. S. 143
MR. JUSTICE Holmes delivered the opinion of the Court.
The plaintiff in error was an unnaturalized foreign-born
resident of Pennsylvania, and was complained of for owning or
having in his possession a shotgun, contrary to an Act of May 8,
1909.Laws 1909, No. 261, p. 466. This statute makes it unlawful for
any unnaturalized foreign-born resident to kill any wild bird or
animal except in defense of person or property, and "to that end"
makes it unlawful for such foreign-born person to own or be
possessed of a shotgun or rifle, with a penalty of $25 and a
forfeiture of the gun or guns. The plaintiff in error was found
guilty and was sentenced to pay the above-mentioned fine. The
judgment was affirmed on successive appeals. 231 Pa. 46. He brings
the case to this Court on the ground that the statute is contrary
to the Fourteenth Amendment and also is in contravention of the
treaty between the United States and Italy, to which latter country
the plaintiff in error belongs.
Under the Fourteenth Amendment, the objection is twofold:
unjustifiably depriving the alien of property and discrimination
against such aliens as a class. But the former really depends upon
the latter, since it hardly can be disputed that, if the lawful
object, the protection of wild life (Geer v. Connecticut,
161 U. S. 519
warrants the discrimination, the means adopted for making it
effective also might be adopted. The possession of rifles and
shotguns is not necessary for other purposes not within the
statute. It is so peculiarly appropriated to the forbidden use
that, if such a use may be denied to this class, the possession of
the instruments desired chiefly for that end also may be. The
prohibition does not extend to weapons, such as pistols, that may
be supposed to be needed occasionally for self-defense. So far, the
case is within the principle of Lawton v. Steele,
152 U. S. 133
Page 232 U. S. 144
See further Silz v. Hesterberg, 211 U. S.
; Purity Extract & Tonic Co. v. Lynch,
226 U. S. 192
The discrimination undoubtedly presents a more difficult
question. But we start with the general consideration that a state
may classify with reference to the evil to be prevented, and that,
if the class discriminated against is or reasonably might be
considered to define those from whom the evil mainly is to be
feared, it properly may be picked out. A lack of abstract symmetry
does not matter. The question is a practical one, dependent upon
experience. The demand for symmetry ignores the specific difference
that experience is supposed to have shown to mark the class. It is
not enough to invalidate the law that others may do the same thing
and go unpunished if, as a matter of fact, it is found that the
danger is characteristic of the class named. Lindsley v.
National Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U. S. 61
220 U. S. 80
The state "may direct its law against what it deems the evil as it
actually exists without covering the whole field of possible
abuses." Central Lumber Co. v. South Dakota, 226 U.
, 226 U. S. 160
Rosenthal v. New York, 226 U. S. 260
226 U. S. 270
L'Hote v. New Orleans, 177 U. S. 587
See further Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Melton,
218 U. S. 36
question therefore narrows itself to whether this Court can say
that the Legislature of Pennsylvania was not warranted in assuming
as its premise for the law that resident unnaturalized aliens were
the peculiar source of the evil that it desired to prevent.
Barrett v. Indiana, 229 U. S. 26
229 U. S.
Obviously the question, so stated, is one of local experience,
on which this Court ought to be very slow to declare that the state
legislature was wrong in its facts. Adams v. Milwaukee,
228 U. S. 572
228 U. S. 583
If we might trust popular speech in some states, it was right; but
it is enough that this Court has no such knowledge of local
conditions as to be able to say that it was manifestly
Page 232 U. S. 145
wrong. See Trageser v. Gray,
73 Md. 250;
Commonwealth v. Hana,
195 Mass. 262.
The defense under the treaty with Italy of February 26, 1871
(proclaimed November 9, 1855, 17 Stat. 845), appears to us to
present less difficulty. The provisions relied upon are those in
Article 2, giving to citizens of Italy the right to carry on trade
and to do anything incident to it upon the same terms as the
natives of this country; in Article 3, assuring them security for
persons and property, and that they "shall enjoy in this respect
the same rights and privileges as are or shall be granted to the
natives, on their submitting themselves to the conditions imposed
upon the natives;" and in Article 24, promising to the Kingdom of
Italy the same favors in respect to commerce and navigation that
may be granted to other nations. We will say a word about each.
The last article is supposed to make applicable a convention
with Switzerland providing against more burdensome conditions'
being imposed upon the residence of Swiss than upon that of
citizens. But Article 24 refers only to commerce and navigation,
and the case must stand wholly upon Articles 2 and 3. As to Article
2, it will be time enough to consider whether the statute can be
construed or upheld as precluding Italians from possessing a stock
of guns for purposes of trade when such a case is presented. The
act was passed for an object with which possession in the way of
trade has nothing to do, and well might be interpreted as not
extending to it. There remains, then, only Article 3. With regard
to that, it was pointed out below that the equality of rights that
it assures is equality only in respect of protection and security
for persons and property. The prohibition of a particular kind of
destruction and of acquiring property in instruments intended for
that purpose establishes no inequality in either respect. It is to
be remembered that the subject of this whole discussion is wild
game, which the state may preserve for
Page 232 U. S. 146
its own citizens if it pleases. Geer v. Connecticut,
161 U. S. 519
161 U. S. 529
We see nothing in the treaty that purports or attempts to cut off
the exercise of their powers over the matter by the states to the
full extent. Compagnie Francaise de Navigation a Vapeur v.
State Board of Health, 186 U. S. 380
186 U. S.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE dissents.