By Luanne Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — When it comes to Sunday bow hunting, many North Carolina lawmakers are not only missing the mark, they are refusing to even take aim. House Bill 1930, which would negate the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s ill-fated rule change to allow hunting on the Lord’s Day, remains stuck in the Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House without even a hearing.
“It saddens me tremendously that there is so little concern for that which is sacred, so little concern for our churches and their contribution to society,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “I understand that the Wildlife Resources Commission makes these rules; but when they go against the will of the people, the Legislature is obligated to step in.”
During his efforts to get the bill heard, the Rev. Creech wrote a letter to Rep. Bill Owens (D-Pasquotank), chairman of the Rules Committee, reminding him that a detailed study commissioned by the WRC in 2006 showed very little support for legalized hunting on Sunday, even among hunters.
“Some 63 percent of responding licensed hunters were strongly opposed to opening the door to bow-hunters only. When Sunday hunting opponents were asked about allowing it only for bow hunters, 82.2 percent strongly opposed the idea with another 7.7 percent ‘somewhat opposed,’” he wrote. “In spite of this scientific study … the WRC decided to make Sunday hunting legal.”
The rule change, which applies to bow hunters on private lands and to falconry, would have already taken effect were it not for the Rules Review Committee’s receipt of at least 10 letters of opposition, another indicator of the public’s rejection of the move.
The Rev. Creech further pointed out that because the WRC is not an elected body, the people’s only remedy for misguided changes is via the Legislature. If the bill isn’t passed, the rule will go into effect at the close of the session.
“This rules change affects more than hunters or persons who would allow Sunday hunting on private lands — it involves the church and an atmosphere conducive to religious prosperity,” he said. “There are ramifications of this decision that require a broader and more absolute consensus. That’s why, I suggest, the decision needs to finally be made by the Legislature.”
Rep. Dewey Hill (D-Columbus) and Rep. Tim Spear (D-Chowan) introduced the simple five-line bill that would keep Sunday off limits to hunting, where it has been since at least 1869. But when House Democrats caucused this week, despite the earnest advocacy of the bill’s sponsors, Hill and Spear, there was not enough support in the chamber’s ruling party to bring the bill out of the Rules Committee and allow a hearing.
A related bill that was heard, passed two committees and the House floor, is Watauga Democrat Cullie Tarleton’s measure — H 1696 — which would allow residents in his county to vote on whether to accept or reject the new bow hunting rules. Rep. Tarleton filed the bill at the request of Watauga County Commissioners who had held public hearings regarding the controversy and wanted to let the people decide.
“Where is the wisdom of allowing the people of Watuaga to vote their will concerning the rules change by referendum and not allowing all of North Carolina to decide by the normal and most accepted means – the Legislature?” the Rev. Creech asked. He said if Tarleton’s measure succeeds, he expects a number of counties to come knocking on the General Assembly’s door seeking similar referendums — a move which could lead to a “patchwork quilt” of regulations.
“The WRC has been working toward making Sunday hunting legal for some time,” the Rev. Creech said. “The current rules change is simply an incremental step in that direction.”
The Watauga bill is now in the hands of the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.