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Measure to Preserve Hunting in Arkansas Facing Opposition

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR 7)-an NRA-backed Constitutional Amendment sponsored by State Senator Steve Faris (D-27) that would recognize hunting and fishing as  constitutional rights--will soon be heard by the Senate and House Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.  Due to some surprising opposition to this critical amendment, it is vital that NRA members, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts contact members of these committees and urge them to support SJR 7.  Membership rosters for the Senate committee can be found by visiting http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/scripts/ablr/committees/arcommittee3afm.asp?ccode=500&user=M

and for the House at http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/scripts/ablr/committees/arcommittee3afm.asp?ccode=900&user=M Please contact the members of these committees and respectfully urge them to co-sponsor SJR 7. Arkansas State Senators can be reached at (501) 682-2902, and State Representatives at (501) 682-6211.


As mentioned, opposition to this pro-hunting amendment is coming from a strange source-The Arkansas State Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). According to recent articles in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the very agency tasked with regulating hunting and fishing is opposed to an amendment that would protect hunting and fishing for future generations. And while this is truly puzzling, some of the reasons stated in an article published on February 18 are even more confounding.


Scott Henderson, director of the AGFC, is quoted in the article as stating, "Arkansas is one of the few states where fish and wildlife management is elevated to constitutional status." This reference to Amendment 35, which established the AGFC, may be true, but fish and wildlife management does not automatically include fishing and hunting by sportsmen. Some anti-hunting groups feel that wildlife management can be accomplished through the use of professional hunters hired by the state, or even using contraception programs. Groups such as PETA and HSUS are so opposed to hunting that they are likely scheming to come up with any number of ways wildlife can be "managed" without involving citizens who enjoy hunting.  What SJR 7 seeks to do is establish that hunting and fishing are preferred methods of management, and recognize that citizens have a right to hunt and fish.


The article also attributes to Henderson the claim that SJR 7 would prohibit AGFC from suspending the licenses of people who repeatedly violate wildlife codes. According to the article, "This would essentially void the wildlife code because the AGFC would then be unable to enforce it." This is patently absurd, as no such catastrophic collapse of wildlife management has been experienced in any of the other states that currently recognize hunting and fishing as protected rights. Furthermore, SJR 7 clearly states the right is "subject to reasonable regulation prescribed by the General Assembly and the Arkansas State Game and Fish Commission."


Other claims in the article are that SJR 7 may impact trespass laws, landowner rights, certain established restrictions on hunting, and eliminate seasons and bag limits. These claims are simply ridiculous. Again, other states with similar amendments have not experienced these problems and, again, the right is "subject to reasonable regulation." It is hard to understand how anyone who supports hunting does not recognize that assaults on hunting have been going on for decades, and extremist groups like PETA and HSUS have multi-million dollar annual budgets to promote their anti-hunting agendas.


In addition, there is nothing in Amendment 35 that states the AGFC must be made up of people who respect the interests of hunters. The sole requirement to be a Commissioner is that the individual must "have knowledge of and interest in wildlife conservation." The leadership of HSUS and PETA could certainly argue they meet such qualifications.


All Amendment 35 does, in reality, is guarantee the AGFC has the sole role in determining what constitutes Arkansas policy regarding "[t]he control, management, restoration, conservation and regulation of birds, fish, game and wildlife resources of the State..." SJR 7, on the other hand, will guarantee that hunting and fishing by the honest citizens of Arkansas is the preferred method in that wildlife management process.


The opposition to SJR 7 is certainly not unanimous on the AGFC, so in addition to contacting members of the Senate and House Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs, please contact the Commissioners of the AGFC and urge them to support SJR 7. Contact information for the Commissioners can be found at http://www.agfc.com/commission/ .


Finally, contact Bryan Hendricks, the author of the article mentioned above, and urge him to once again change his position on SJR 7. An article of his published on February 11, fully supported this amendment, but he has now come out in opposition to it, based, it would seem, on the fallacious arguments promoted by the AGFC. You can send Hendricks e-mail by going to bhendricks@arkansasonline.com, or call him at (501) 378-3579.


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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.