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Hunting in Virginia: Make Sunday hunting legal, by Matthew J. O'Brien
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"HUNTERS ARE conservative and tend to vote Republican." This boilerplate has always applied to me until now. The majority of hunters in the state support hunting on Sunday. In 2007, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conducted a scientific poll of licensed hunters that concluded that 63 percent of hunters want increased access to the woods and have been asking for an end to the last blue law.
For almost three years, I've been involved with the Facebook group "Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting for All" in an effort to make this reality. I've heard the voices and seen the frustration of hunters from across Virginia. All they want is the freedom to spend their Sundays participating in a recreational activity that is as safe and legal as it is on the other six days of the week.
Beyond a doubt, this is a freedom and individual liberty issue, but to those involved, it is much more. It restricts the rights of private property owners, and many hunters feel it is a gun-ownership right as well. Some even view this as a taxation matter due to lost revenue from private-property use restrictions. All of these issues are traditional planks of the Republican Party and they've used all of these as a rallying cry to get us behind the Republican candidates. Republicans have consistently been able to count on hunters for support--through our ballots, donations, and good old-fashioned shoe leather on the streets, knocking on doors to get out the vote. The tide is turning.
Last year's General Assembly and the House Republican leadership actions to kill Sunday hunting have shown me that blind faith is dangerous. Earlier this year, a bipartisan compromise bill overwhelmingly passed in the Senate and then died when four Republicans in the House Agricultural subcommittee did not support it. This death was surreptitiously orchestrated under the House Republican leadership. A bill that would have increased the freedom of property owners was killed by a few Republicans in seats of power.
I am a hunter and a reg-
It is my goal this year to get hunters thinking about this as the election draws closer. In the past, hunters have used their eyes and ears to hunt their quarry. As we move forward, hunters will turn that same vision to see who is really supporting their passion, and who isn't. Republicans should no longer take us for granted.
Matthew J. O'Brien is safety health and environmental manager of Flowserve U.S. Inc.