NC long-standing hunting ban with guns pulled back by House

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2015

By GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press

RALEIGH (AP) — The state House agreed Tuesday night to pull back on North Carolina’s long-standing ban on hunting with guns on Sundays, replacing it with legislation containing exceptions but giving counties the ability to ban it again locally in a couple of years.

The House voted 83-35 for legislation that would allow hunting with a firearm on the day traditionally reserved for church on private land with the owner’s written permission. The bill now goes to the Senate.

There would be limits. Sunday hunting of this kind would still be banned in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, and anywhere else within 500 yards of a church and nearby homes. And other counties could pass their own Sunday hunting prohibitions starting in October 2017. Hunting of migratory birds and deer while using dogs to chase them also would be unlawful.

North Carolina is one of 11 states that restrict Sunday hunting. The Wildlife Resources Commission agreed in 2009 to allow Sunday bow hunting.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said the decision to hunt or not to hunt will be left within the hands of landowners: “It compels no one to hunt with a firearm on Sunday.”

But Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, said elected officials, hunt clubs and ministers in the northeastern counties he represents doesn’t want a change. People in his region are happy with six-day-a-week hunting, he said.

“This is the Bible Belt,” he said. “It represents an era of days gone by.” Members narrowly defeated an amendment by Rep. Paul Tine, an unaffiliated legislator from Dare County, giving all 100 counties the option to pass an ordinance to bar Sunday hunting right away.

Supporters of gun hunting say sportsmen are leaving for home Saturday night, meaning a day less for other rooms and hotel spending in rural areas.

There are many sporting events and festivals that already occur on Sundays and aren’t restricted, another bill sponsor said.

“We have many, many recreational activities that we readily condone. I don’t know why hunting is any different,” said Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland.

Rep. Bill Brisson, D-Bladen, argued the hunting changes were inserted in a bill called the “Outdoor Heritage Act” that few people knew about. Brisson said the state’s Christian heritage — it has an emphasis on Sunday being a day of rest — was even more important than hunting.

Debate went for more than an hour late into the evening as General Assembly near a self-imposed deadline Thursday to pass bills through at least one chamber.

“If there are concerns about the public knowing” about the bill, said Rep. Susan Martin, R-Wilson, who voted for the measure, “they certainly will know now.”