CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Sunday Hunting movement in West Virginia has gained momentum in the last couple of years. In each of the last four elections voters have approved Sunday hunting on private land in nearly every county it’s been on the ballot.
The change happened over the course of 15 years. The legislature approved the idea of Sunday hunting statewide in 2001 on private property. However, to appease some serious opposition to the idea they allowed for the measure to become a county-by-county ballot question if there was opposition. The very next election in 2002 it was voted out in a lot of counties. Since then, attitudes have been changing.
Advocates who have joined the most recent push to change the regulation say there are several reasons for the shift in thinking. More and more West Virginians have a six day work week and Sunday is their only day off. Others are angered over the idea they can’t hunt on thier own land on Sunday, even though the practice is completely legal for six other days of the week. Both are compelling arguements and the latter makes the question more of a property rights matter than a hunting issue.
They have a good point. There is no good reason why hunting should be forbidden on private land on Sunday. If you own land you pay your taxes on the property. You maintain the property–which by the way you can also do on Sunday if you wish. You can also allow others to hunt there. But what’s often lost in the debate is the fact if it’s your property you can also NOT allow people to hunt there. If a property owner decides they don’t want people to hunt on Sunday there is nothing which forces them to allow it. Thefore what is the harm in allowing Sunday hunting on private land?
The law as it stands was written at a time when there were a lot of restrictions placed on Sunday activities by society. Although it was before my time, there are people old enough to remember when stores were closed on Sunday and you couldn’t even buy gas on Sunday. There were laws in place which disallowed a lot of activity on Sunday on the grounds of morality and religion. Over time, those were eliminated one by one. Those “blue laws” were judged to be over bearing and in many cases infringed on personal freedom and liberty. The prohibition on Sunday hunting in West Virginia is one of those laws and should be eliminated for that reason.
During the heated debate over the matter during the 2001 regular legislative session opponents referenced numerous extreme suggestions. It was offered sounds of gunfire would disrupt church services. Some claimed Sunday dinner would be ruined by the sound of shooting and the interloping of trespassers. None of that has happened in the 22 counties where Sunday hunting is currently legal. It’s highly doubtful it will happen if voters agree to allow it in Tuesday’s vote. Plus, when those problems happen any other day of the week it’s a violation and would also be a violation on Sunday.
The question to allow Sunday hunting is on the ballot in 11 counties; Kanawha, Mercer, Wood, Pleasants, Richie, Monongalia, Marion, Preston, Barbour, Harrison, and Berkeley Counties. Advocates hope a strong showing in those counties will convince lawmakers to consider revisiting the issue for a statewide allowance during next year’s regular legislative session which will be in a non-election year. We’ll find out if the momentum continues to be there as the votes are counted.