HARRISONBURG — Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, bagged enough votes Monday to move legislation forward that would end the state’s ban on Sunday hunting.
On a voice vote, the House of Delegates agreed to advance Gilbert’s bill to a final vote set for today. If the bill passes, it heads to the Senate, which approved lifting the ban in 2012 but saw it defeated by a House subcommittee.
The measure limits hunting to private property, among other provisions.
“For the most part, this is a private property bill,” Gilbert said on the House floor.
Delegates held a lengthy debate before voting Monday. Gilbert lobbied for support by noting a decline in hunting licenses in Virginia and the need to instill the appreciation of hunting in youth, who would be better able to spend family time hunting if a full weekend were available.
“It’s a tremendously important part of Virginia’s heritage,” he said.
Virginia’s ban is part of the state’s “blue laws” restricting a variety of activities on Sundays. Hunting is the only activity that remains banned, and Virginia is one of only five states that prohibit it, Gilbert said.
Those who favor the ban argue that states such as Ohio and Michigan have seen license numbers dip since lifting their ban, among other positions.
The “blue law” aspect remains for the bill’s opponents, too.
“I think this country was a whole lot better off when we had more respect for Sunday,” said Del. Thomas Wright, R-Lunenburg.
Handgun Bill Passes
A bill amending how out-of-state gun permits are recognized passed the House by a 65-34 and now heads to the Senate.
Also carried by Gilbert, the measure allows an out-of-state permit holder to present a valid government-issued photo identification to have his or her permit recognized in Virginia, if verification is requested by state law enforcement.
Current law requires other states to have a means for “instantaneous verification” for Virginia police.
Gilbert has said that by changing the law, Virginia will recognize permits from more states where Virginia permits are also not recognized. That will help Virginia gun owners who leave the state, he said, because if Virginia won’t recognize some states’ permits, those states won’t recognize the commonwealth’s, either.
Almost all the bill’s “no” votes came from Democrats. In a press release, the state Democratic Party called Gilbert’s bill “extreme” and criticized it for eliminating “important requirements,” including the instantaneous verification.
The measure’s prospects of winning Senate passage, however, are less clear. Unlike the House, the chamber is split evenly with the two parties having 20 members each following Monday’s recount victory by Democrat Del. Lynwood W. Lewis Jr. in a special election for a Hampton Roads seat.
That effectively gives Democrats control of the body because Lt. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, is allowed to break tie votes in the Senate.
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