In a 44-4 vote Wednesday, the North Carolina Senate passed legislation that would let voters choose whether to amend the state constitution to safeguard citizens’ right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.
If the bill, SB677, becomes law voters will vote on a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would add language to the state constitution protecting the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife in the state.
The bill is now in the House Rules Committee awaiting action from that body if it is to make it onto the November ballot.
The language of the amendment would say, “The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife is a valued part of the State’s heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good. The people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly and rules adopted pursuant to authority granted by the General Assembly to promote wildlife conservation and management and preserve the future of hunting and fishing. This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to public safety, trespass, property rights, eminent domain, or the regulation of commercial activities.”
Voters in 21 other states have already approved constitutional protections for hunting and fishing.
Sens. Danny Britt (R-Robeson), Norman Sanderson (R-Pamlico) and Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) are the sponsors of the legislation.
“North Carolinians deserve to have their voices heard when it comes to protecting the hunting and fishing rights that have always been part of our heritage and way of life,” Britt, Sanderson and McInnis said in a joint statement. “We’re confident voters will agree that this amendment will help ensure North Carolina remains a sportsman’s paradise for future generations.”
According to data from 2011, North Carolinians spent $2.3 billion on hunting and fishing in the state, generating $249 million in revenue and supporting more than 35,000 local jobs.
In 2016 alone the state issued 1.87 million hunting and fishing licenses.
Four Democrats voted against the legislation including Sens. Dan Blue (D-Wake), Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe), Milton Fitch (D-Halifax) and Floyyd McKissick (D-Durham).
Dr. Christopher Kopacki, North Carolina state director for the National Rifle Association, released a statement in support of the constitutional amendment.
Kopacki’s statement said, “Hunting and fishing are not only cherished North Carolina traditions, but paired with science, they are the key to wildlife management and conservation. Unfortunately, misguided extremists have been trying for decades to ban our outdoor traditions either outright or incrementally. Amending the constitution is the best way for North Carolina to protect themselves from the extreme political agenda of animal rights groups.”