North Carolinians Closer to Constitutionally Guaranteed Right to Hunt and Fish

Should hunting and fishing be constitutionally guaranteed rights?

Both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly think so.

On June 25, Senate Bill 677 was passed 92-23 by the North Carolina House. The bill had previously passed 44-4 in the Senate.  The amendment will now be on the ballot in November for North Carolina voters to decide its fate.

But, “what’s the point,” asked Sen. Floyd McKissick. The Democrat from Durham cast one of the four votes against SB 677 in the Senate.

“The problem is those rights are not being threatened or challenged,” he said soon after the Senate’s vote. “I suppose we’ll next need a Constitutional Amendment to protect our rights to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom.”

The bill’s Republican sponsors disagreed.

They are Sens. Danny Britt, Robeson County; Norman Sanderson, Pamlico County; and Tom McInnis, Anson County. They said in a joint statement that the constitutional protection would be a hedge against future threats from anti-hunting-and-fishing organizations.

The sponsors said they are following the example of 21 other states that amended their constitutions to protect outdoor pursuits.

“North Carolinians deserve to have their voices heard when it comes to protecting the hunting and fishing rights that have always been part of our heritage and way of life,” the sponsors said in their statement.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CFS) reports 1.63 million hunters and anglers call North Carolina home. They spend $2.3 billion each year to pursue their passions, which supports 35,088 jobs.

But, according to the CFS, North Carolina sportsmen and women have reason to worry about future threats from groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.

“Anti-hunting organizations would lead the public to believe that hunting, fishing, and harvesting wildlife are only a privilege subject to social pressures and prevailing public sentiments, rather than an inherent right,” the CFS reported.

“Currently,” CFS added, “21 states have enacted legislation that protects the right to hunt and fish. Though there has been little resistance in several of the states that have recently passed ballot initiatives, others have met considerable resistance and, in one instance, defeat.”

That state was Arizona where, in 2010, Proposition 109—similar to North Carolina’s SB 677—was shot down after the HSUS managed to convince voters that the measure would give the Legislature exclusive authority over wildlife issues and prevent citizens “from initiating statutory petitions.”

But SB 677 states, in part, that, “The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to promote wildlife conservation and management and preserve the future of hunting and fishing.”

“As sporting traditions are increasingly threatened, right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife constitutional amendments are important to protect our outdoor heritage,” said John Culclasure, the foundation’s Appalachian states manager.

He added that “every state adjacent to North Carolina” is among the 21 states that amended their constitutions to protect hunting and fishing.

The bill’s sponsors are optimistic voters will approve the constitutional amendment in November.

In their joint statement, they said, “We’re confident voters will agree that this amendment will help ensure North Carolina remains a sportsman’s paradise for future generations.”

— Bill Miller, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield blog

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