It’s a beautiful Sunday morning in North Carolina. The air is clear and you feel a strong desire to be outside in nature. You work long hours all week, maybe even on Saturdays, that prevent you from being able to enjoy one of your favorite recreational activities: hunting. You love to hunt with a rifle, and want to take your favorite .308 or .30-06. But, since it’s Sunday, you’re not legally allowed to. That could be changing soon.
Currently, North Carolina is one of 11 states with some sort of Sunday hunting ban. In North Carolina currently, Sunday hunting is not allowed with firearms and is only allowed for archery and falconry. The law is a “blue law”, which is an old type of law that restricts many Sunday activities for religious reasons, including types of entertainment or leisure. That could be changing soon as the North Carolina House and Senate have both passed a bill that would allow for limited gun hunting on Sundays. The North Carolina Senate passed the bill 34-13, while the House passed their version of the bill 83-35. The senate bill contained an amendment that would allow Sunday gun hunting only after noon. The House must decide if they want to pass the bill with this and other changes as the Senate has done, or try to pass a version of the bill with different amendments.
The bill would allow hunting on Sundays only on private land, and not within 500 yards of home or place of worship. It would also not take effect in more populous counties (those with a population over 700,000 people) and individual counties would be allowed to pass laws prohibiting the practice. The bill also has a couple other notable effects. It would change the classification of a bear cub from 50 to 75 pounds (making larger cubs protected) and establish a voluntary fund to encourage outdoor youth recreation.
Some opponents of the bill say that Sunday is a sacred holy day and that allowing hunting on Sundays would violate those principles. Others oppose creating another day for hunting because they enjoy having a day where they can be in the woods without worrying about hunters with guns, or because the extra day of hunting may impact local wildlife populations.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Center, however, supports the bill. Gordon Myers, the executive commissioner of the wildlife Commission, has stated that:
“Allowing Sunday hunting on private lands will provide additional hunting days and additional options for youth and adults whose school and employment responsibilities limit their hunting opportunities to weekends.”
Because many people have obligations that take up their time 5 or 6 days of the week, allowing hunting on Sunday gives opportunities to those who might otherwise be unable to hunt – given that those people have private land that they either own or have permission to hunt on. It might also be reasonable to assume that allowing more opportunities to hunt may increase state revenue by encouraging new licensees who felt unable to hunt in the past due to day restrictions, or those who may have even secured permits to hunt in neighboring states who do allow hunting on Sundays.
As to the objections of hunting on the holy day of rest, it was aptly stated by North Carolina senator Brent Jackson that other recreational activities — including golf, hiking, and even target shooting — are currently allowed on Sundays.
“We do everything else we decide we want to do on Sunday. Everything. … I can go fishing. I can go play golf.”
Considering safety, the North Carolina Department of Natural resources counted 3 fatal hunting accidents between 2012 and 2013 in a document that can be found here. Of these 3 fatal accidents, two of them involved fatal falls from a tree stand. The third involved a victim in the same hunting party as the shooter. The victim was not wearing a blaze orange vest according to the report, and the shooting happened as a result of an astounding two negligent discharges in a very short time frame from a close distance. In a state with a population of almost 10 million people, it would be a substantial reach to claim that 1 fatal shooting proves that opening hunting for one more day of the week would create a danger to public safety.
A similar law in Pennsylvania has been challenged, but the lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge. The group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting sought to challenge Pennsylvania’s ban based on several factors. They claimed it deprived them of their Second Amendment rights, violated their first amendment rights, and failed to treat hunters equally under the law as reported by BearingArms.com:
A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by a hunters’ group that had challenged Pennsylvania’s long-standing ban on Sunday hunting, saying she saw no proof the hunters’ constitutionally protected rights were being harmed.
U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane made the ruling in a suit brought by the Lancaster County-based Hunters United for Sunday Hunting against the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the agency that enforces the state’s game code.
Kane said she could find no proof that courts have extended Second Amendment protections to include recreational hunting. She also found that the hunters could not prove that the law unfairly discriminated between classes of hunters or that the ban on Sunday hunting violates their religious freedoms.
In 2010, the Pennsylvania Game Commission passed a resolution supporting the repeal of the Sunday hunting ban. A 2011 study by the Pennsylvania legislator predicted that allowing hunting on Sunday would bring over $800 million to the state. Their less-restrictive law allows for firearm hunting of certain types of game animal such as foxes and coyotes. Still, the Pennsylvania group was unable to get the law changed through the court system, and Pennsylvanians remain unable to hunt on Sundays.
North Carolina hunters, look for your Senate and House to agree on a bill and pass it. If they can manage to pass a bill and get it signed by the governor, the state of North Carolina may join the rest of the country in being able to hunt with firearms on Sundays.
Image by TUBS