Repealing Virginia's Ban on Sunday Hunting: Is 2012 the Year?

Travis DormanContributor IJanuary 16, 2012

2012 may bring an end to an antiquated Virginia law banning Sunday hunting.
2012 may bring an end to an antiquated Virginia law banning Sunday hunting.

The Virginia General Assembly is back in session, and there are a few proposed bills that would end the current ban on Sunday hunting. 

I've been checking a few online forums and group sites related to the issue, and thought I would compile information into a single document outlining some key points and tools for those interested in supporting the legislation.

The current ban on Sunday hunting is a "blue law" held over from colonial times when several economic activities were banned on Sunday.  Most of these have been reversed over the years (the purchase of alcohol in VA for example), and a good number of states have allowed Sunday hunting for many years. 

Virginia has been slow to change their position on the topic in part to resistance from a wide variety of groups—including anti-hunters, horse enthusiasts, and believe it or not, a few dog-hunting organizations. 

However, this year the topic seems to be carrying more momentum than it has in the past. 

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries released a position paper clearly stating its support of Sunday hunting, and several media outlets (Washington Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch) have been covering efforts to repeal the ban:

The following bills speak to ending the ban in one fashion or another.  It seems that the bills with the best chance for passage are those that lift the ban on private property. 

The current ban is an infringement on property rights, and lifting the ban would allow each property owner to make the decision regarding activities on his or her land—seven days a week. 

While not my personal preference, allowing the ban to remain in effect on public land does appease some groups who use those lands on Sunday.

House Bill 921 would repeal the law for licensed hunters, House Bill 989 would completely repeal the ban, House Bill 369 would lift the ban on private property and House Bill 1002 would only lift the ban in select counties—not something I would support.

In the Senate, Senate Bill 151 would completely repeal the ban and Senate Bill 173 would lift the ban on private property.

To simplify the Virginia legislative process, bills are written by a delegate or senator, and then assigned to a committee that specializes in that area of law.  These committees have to pass the bill—or an amended version of the bill—in order for the bill to proceed to a vote of the complete legislative body. 

In short, these two committees have to approve the bill before any thing else happens. Email addresses for the Senate and House committee members are available through these links. The committees will be meeting this week, so be sure to contact the members as soon as you can.

House Committee on Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources

Please consider sending an email or otherwise contacting the offices of the committee members listed in those last two links to express your support for the Sunday hunting bills. 

Here are a few ideas to help explain the rationale for repeal.

The current ban is in violation of property rights and restricts a typical worker's hunting to one day a week, which harms hunter numbers, license sales, hunting related commerce and hunter recruitment. 

In the long term, declining hunter numbers would have a negative impact on game management strategies employed by the VDGIF and carried out by Virginia's hunters. 

I have also had a few legislators tell me that Sunday hunting violates their Christian beliefs.  As a Christian, I can appreciate their concern, but I'm quick to point out that it is not the place of the state to direct citizen activity based on individual religious belief.

Hopefully, the committees will pass one of the bills along for a general vote.  If that happens, then you'll want to send a message to your local delegate and senator. 

This site can help you with that. Just click the link that says "Email your legislator now":

Hopefully this year Virginia's legislators will take a positive step in encouraging hunter participation and recruitment by repealing an outdated ban.