Earlier last month the Virginia Senate passed House Bill 1237 while its counterpart, Senate Bill 154, passed the General Assembly last Friday. Both bills are designed to lift Virginia’s long-standing Sunday hunting ban, and both are headed to the desk of Governor Terry McAuliffe.
“Pretty sure there will be no debate or amendment attempt, the puppy’s tail is tucked,” said activist Matt O’Brien on his group Legalize Virginia Sunday Hunting For All’s Facebook page before the Senate bill hit the House floor on Friday.
O’Brien and other supporters of the Sunday hunting bills said previously that this year marked the closest that lawmakers have come to ending the ban. They are now saying that the fight is nearly over. McAuliffe has previously indicated that he would sign either of the bills if they come before him, and supporters say that the issue is now just a formality.
“Purely speculation on my part, but I wonder if the Governor isn’t waiting for this bill to arrive to his desk as well so that he can sign both at the same time. Granted, he only has to sign one of them since they are identical,” O’Brien said.
Even if McAuliffe takes no action on the House bill, it will eventually become a law by default. The effort to pass the bills was largely bipartisan and also received popular support from hunting organizations, although some groups did oppose the bills.
Current Virginia law only allows raccoons to be hunted on Sunday, but the bills will allow hunters to take deer and other wild animals like they would be able to normally. Hunting still remains prohibited within 200 yards of a house of worship. The sponsor of the House bill, Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), said that he hopes more hunting opportunities will revitalize the state’s dwindling number of hunters.
“Virginia has such a strong hunting heritage that we thought this would be a great opportunity to attempt to reverse that trend,” told Capital News Service. “The high-powered rifle season for deer is only two weeks long. So if you’re a hardworking person, you really only have two Saturday’s in which to engage in that activity all year. This would simply give you a couple extra days to enjoy a sport you love and be able to put food on the table.”
Virginia is one of only 11 states with a ban on Sunday hunting, largely as a result of the religious “blue laws” the state adopted in 1930.