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Are Any U.S. States Still Concerned about Dueling?

In July 2017, during the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) made the news by suggesting that in South Texas, they would settle their differences with Republican senators who voted against the bill with a duel. However, if Farenthold had held office in Kentucky, by law, he wouldn't have that option. In Kentucky, all legislators, public officials, judges, and attorneys must take an oath stating that they have not, and will not, engage in β€œa duel with deadly weapons.” In 2010, a Kentucky legislator introduced a bill to remove the antiquated stipulation, a tradition since 1849, but there was little support for it.

When bullets settled debates:

  • Kentucky State Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Lousiville) pushed for the change because, he said, β€œit perpetuates that image of Kentucky as being backward.” The bill was never debated or voted on, and ultimately expired.

  • Kentucky historian Jim Klotter says the duel reference was added in the 1800s because too many residents were killing each other. Kentuckian Henry Clay, who served in Congress and ran for president in 1824, participated in two duels.

  • In 1804, Aaron Burr famously shot and killed his political adversary, Alexander Hamilton, in a New Jersey duel.

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