State Senate overturns Sunday hunting ban

Today the Senate of Virginia passed SB 464 sponsored by Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) which will permit hunting on Sundays on private land in Virginia.

A companion bill, SB 173, sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), which adopted the “private land” compromise for permitting Sunday hunting, was rolled into Senator Northam’s bill in committee. The Senate vote was 29-11 in favor of passing the bill.

A Senate floor substitute by Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) prohibits hunters to refrain from hunting within 250 yards of a place of worship.

“I’m glad that the Senate acted decisively today to roll back an archaic restriction on a constitutional right in Virginia”  Sen. Petersen said following the floor vote. The right to hunt and fish is Article XI, Section 4 of the Constitution of Virginia.

“I lived in Maryland when they repealed Sunday hunting, and yes, it was controversial beforehand but there really weren’t any problems once it had been repealed. People can choose whether they want to hunt on Sunday or not, I don’t know why anyone would have a problem with that” said Matt Williams, a avid hunter from Richmond who has been following the bill’s progress through the Senate.

Sen. Petersen had previously proposed SB 850 in 2011, which advocated an outright appeal of Sunday hunting.  That bill died in committee last year.  His impetus for that bill had come from the Fairfax County Izaak Walton League which formally endorsed the repeal in 2009 – an endorsement eventually followed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has come out in favor of the repeal, and specifically emphasized the rights of property owners to hunt on their own property. “I think certainly as a property rights issue we should not be telling property owners what they can and can’t do on private property one day a week” Governor McDonnell said to the Roanoke Times on January 19th.

Pro Sunday hunting organizers agreed with the governor and Sen. Petersen; the NRA has come out in support of the bill, and 66% of licensed hunters in the Commonwealth of Virginia support Sunday hunting.

In testimony at the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources committee, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech cited the economic benefits of Sunday hunting, stating that Virginia would expect to gain 3,900 jobs, and an estimated 300 million dollars in potential economic benefit.


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