Outdoor Sportsmen's Rights

Outdoor Sportsmen's Rights

No matter what your favorite outdoor sporting recreation is we often take our right to participate for granted. Hunting, fishing and trapping have come under an almost continuos onslaught from very well funded organizations like PETA. We are fortunate however there are enlightened state representatives in states all around this country trying to amend state constitutions to preserve and guarantee our rights. Assemblyman Richard Smith (D) 149 has sponsored such a bill in New York. This bill is currently in committee we need to help by writing letters to our representatives in support of this legislation. Similar legislation is being debated and passed in many states, we do not want to be left behind.

A resolution to provide sportsmen in Missouri with constitutional protection of their right to hunt, fish and harvest game (House Joint Resolution 27) passed the House Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on February 18, 2004. Sponsored by Missouri Legislative Sportsmen Caucus member Representative James Whorton (D-3) along with nine other caucus members, the legislation is now waiting to be placed on the calendar for debate on the House floor. A similar bill (SJR 24), introduced by Missouri Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus member Senator Harold Caskey (D-31), has already passed through Senate committee and awaits debate on the floor of the Senate. Nine other states are addressing similar legislation: Indiana, Idaho, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Legislation has passed in Virginia, North Dakota, and Louisiana.

Sportsmen's Bill of Rights Legislation in Pennsylvania Representative Matthew Baker's bill proposing a constitutional amendment preserving the right to hunt and fish passed the House by a vote of 189-11 on February 9, 2004. The legislation awaits action in the Senate and if approved would be added to the commonwealth's ballot to be voted on by the citizens in November.

The Georgia House Game, Fish and Parks Committee addressed a similar constitutional amendment. The State Senate bill, SR 563, has already passed which overwhelmingly supported the amendment to their state constitution preserving the right to hunt, fish, and harvest game. The Senate passed Senator Eric Johnson's bill (SR 563) with 51 yeas to 3 nays and the House passed an identical bill, sponsored by Representative Gregg Morris, with a vote of 154 yeas to 14 nays. Both legislators are members of the Georgia Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus and Representative Morris is a Co-Chair. Each bill awaits action in the opposite body of the legislature before it is sent to the Governor and placed on the 2004 ballot.

The legislative fight across the country is not easy in Nebraska there has been some resistance. The Nebraska Legislative Sportsmen's Forum will be addressing similar legislation (LR 4 CA) in its state Senate. The bill faces an effort to halt progress due to objections to amending Nebraska's Constitution. It will take 33 votes to move the bill forward and bill sponsor and Nebraska Legislative Sportsmen's Forum Chair, Senator Ed Schrock is recruiting supporters.

The goal of protecting our rights as outdoor sport enthusiasts is not politically incorrect, as some would lead you to believe. Participating in the outdoor sports is a way of expressing an appreciation for our heritage and it is worthy of protecting from a few well-financed and loud minorities. The tradition of hunting and fishing is as American as apple pie, feel no shame because you enjoy the outdoors. Many of our state and national conservation efforts were started because outdoor sportsmen saw what pollution and unregulated commercial harvest were doing to the ecosystem. Again we need to support our legislators in making our rights law. Write a letter today before you do anything else

By Tom Marks


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