STATES CONSIDER LIFTING SUNDAY HUNTING BANS

October 3, 2006

States that restrict hunting on Sunday are debating whether to loosen the bans to placate eager hunters and manage deer overpopulation.  Eleven states ban hunting on Sunday or restrict it in various ways, such as allowing it only for certain game or in certain locations.

Some bans go as far back as the 1700s and are among the "blue laws" enacted to restrict working, shopping, drinking, dancing and other activities on the Sabbath.  Courts have upheld Sunday bans on hunting, according to David Hudson of the First Amendment Center in Nashville.

Several states are considering whether to lift or loosen the bans. Such proposals have come up before, but officials say there is increased momentum.  In November, Virginia will survey 5,000 hunters to see whether its ban should change.  Other recent moves:

  • Maryland legislators have opened a few Sundays to deer hunting in some counties as a way to control the state's deer population, says Paul Peditto, director of the state's Wildlife and Heritage Service.
  • Connecticut's Department of Environmental Protection advocates Sunday hunting in parts of the state that are overpopulated by deer, says Dale May, director of the department's Wildlife Division; a bill passed the Senate this year before stalling.
  • North Carolina is conducting a study on the pros and cons of lifting the Sunday ban; more than 10,000 people have submitted comments, says Richard Hamilton, executive director of the state's Wildlife Resources Commission.

Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist, says the bans limit hunting as the sport is losing ground.  For every 100 hunters who quit, he says, 69 people take up the activity.

Opponents include farm organizations speaking for farmers who want a day of quiet, and bird-watchers who want time outdoors free from gunshots.

Source: Emily Bazar, "States consider lifting Sunday hunting bans; Loosening 'blue law' limits could control deer overpopulation," USA Today, October 3, 2006.

 

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