The Virginia House of Delegates voted 71-27 on Tuesday to pass a bill (HB 1237) that would lift the state’s longstanding ban on Sunday hunting. It is not the first attempt by lawmakers to end the ban, but hunting advocates say they are optimistic about this attempt.
“Imagine if we were to ban NASCAR on Sunday,” Delagate L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) told The Washington Post. “Imagine if we were to say, ‘Whoops, no golf!’ And imagine if we said, ‘No football on Sunday afternoon. I think the tectonic plates would shift! This is just another form of recreation.”
The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), said that the bill will do more than just allow Virginians to hunt on Sunday. Gilbert hopes that lifting the ban will draw more people to hunting, reduce populations of nuisance deer, and promote tourism. According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, deer hunting alone brings over $240 million to the state annually.
There are those that disagree. Some landowners and farmers fear the bill could lead to increased trespassing, while hikers say they feel uneasy with hunters in the woods. Also among those opposing the bill are lawmakers who believe that hunting on Sunday flies in the face of tradition.
“Sunday is the Lord’s day,” Delegate Tommy Wright (R-Victoria) told the The Virginian-Pilot.
Virginia’s Sunday hunting ban, like those of the other 10 states that currently hold similar laws, is one of the last of religious “blue laws” from the 1800s to remain on the books. These laws seek to preserve Sunday as a day of rest, also known as the Sabbath in Christian tradition. However, supporters of HB 1237 point out that not all Virginian hunters are Christian.
“We have people of multiple faiths. Sunday is not particularly their day of worship. We have a large Jewish population. Maybe they worship on Saturday and would like to hunt on Sunday,” Delagate Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) told the Post.
Hunters also say that allowing only one day on the weekend for hunting can be frustrating to those that work during weekdays, or for younger hunters who go to school.
HB 1237 now heads to the Virigina Senate. If it is passed and signed by the governor, the Sunday hunting ban could be eliminated as early as July 1. Virginia’s version of the ban has been enforced since 1930.