Sunday Hunting Close To Approval

Posted: February 8, 2014

HARRISONBURG — After debating a bill to lift Virginia’s longtime ban on Sunday hunting Friday, the Senate passed the measure on for a final vote and expected approval Monday.

“At this point, I would say it’s probably going to pass,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon.

The Senate took a voice vote to advance the legislation on Friday, and the official vote comes the next legislative day, which is Monday.

If it passes, though, it won’t be because of the Augusta County lawmaker. Hanger opposes lifting the ban, but offered an amendment to the legislation that would give localities the option to allow Sunday hunting.

Customs differ around Virginia, Hanger said in a phone interview, and localities would be better suited to organize additional law enforcement officers for more hunting days.

But supporters of the bill say a local option would create confusion with each jurisdiction having its own regulations, so they shot down the amendment.

That leaves the bill with two primary provisions: limiting hunting on private property and prohibiting it within 200 yards of a church.

Last week, the House of Delegates voted 71-27 to end the ban, also rejecting an amendment that would have called for a local option. Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, carried the House version, while Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, is the sponsor in the Senate.

The ban is a vestige of the state’s “blue laws” restricting a variety of activities on Sundays. Hunting is the only activity that remains outlawed, and Virginia is one of only five states that prohibit it, Gilbert has said.

Ban supporters say other outdoor enthusiasts enjoy a day free from hunters during hunting season, and that Sunday should be left alone as a day of rest, for hunters and game.

“The bullets don’t stop at the fence line,” Hanger said.

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said he’s opposed to Sunday hunting based on the feedback of constituents, particularly the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. In a press release from 2012, the Farm Bureau states its stance derives from members citing “faith-based beliefs as well as the ability of horse owners and riders and landowners to use the outdoors one day a week without worrying about hunters.”

But lifting the ban would help the state manage its deer population, offer economic benefits — such as more people purchasing hunting licenses — and give busy hunters an extra weekend day to hunt, Gilbert has said.

If the Senate approves lifting the ban, Gov. Terry McAuliffe must then sign off on it before it takes effect. McAuliffe is in favor of Sunday hunting, spokeswoman Rachel Thomas said.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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