Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Hunting May Get Strongest Push Yet


A collection of national sportsmen's groups aimed at getting Sunday hunting legalized has Pennsylvania and the rest of the Northeast in its sights.

The group is known as the Sunday Hunting Coalition. It's made up of some of the same heavy-hitting groups — the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association and others — that got mentored youth hunting programs legalized, first in Pennsylvania, then in 28 other states, over the past five years.

The coalition formed during the SHOT Show, the hunting and shooting industry's annual convention held last month.

"The Coalition has just one goal: to facilitate the repeal of laws prohibiting hunting on Sundays in the 11 remaining states that still have the archaic blue law in place," said Rob Sexton, vice president for government affairs for the Sportsmen's Alliance.

Repealing the blue law would not, in and of itself, lead to hunting on Sundays. But it would give the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to include Sundays in hunting and trapping seasons if it saw fit.

Pennsylvania's blue law — which dates to 1794 — initially forbade any kind of "work or toil" being done on Sundays. It's since largely been eliminated, so that it's legal to gamble, open a store, buy alcohol and work seven days a week.

There have been numerous efforts to repeal the ban on hunting— something only the state legislature can do — but they've always failed.

This might be the time for that to finally change, said state Rep. Marc Gergely, an Allegheny County Democrat and officer with the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucuses, another of the coalition members.

In the past, allowing hunting on Sundays was always touted as a way to recruit and retain hunters. Those reasons remain valid, he said. But there's more, too.

A 2005 study showed that allowing Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania would generate $629 million in economic impact, $18 million in state sales tax and support 5,300 new full- and part-time jobs. "This goes beyond just hunter opportunity," Gergely said. "Those were big figures in 2005, when we were flush with money. They're even bigger now I'm sure, and we're in a recession, too. We need that money, and we need those jobs."

There's opposition out there, though.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau has always opposed the legalization of Sunday hunting for a variety of reasons, ranging from religious ones to the fact it's the only day most farmers "take off" from work, said spokesman Mark O'Neill. That sentiment remains strong, he said.

"The last time our members discussed this, it was overwhelming, no question about it, no wavering opposition to Sunday hunting," O'Neill said.

Gergely said the Democratic leadership in the House plans to push the issue by updating its economic impact figures and holding a hearing sometime this year. He's urged the organizations in the Sunday Hunting Coalition to become a presence at the state Capitol to lobby their case in person, too.

If all of that comes to pass, Sunday hunting may yet become legal here, he said.

"I think maybe we've reached the tipping point where this finally gets done," Gergely said

Read more: Sunday hunting may get strongest push yet - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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