Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 15, 2012

The right to hunt

Only the NRA thinks this amendment is necessary

The Independent

ASHLAND — When Kentucky voters go to the polls Nov. 6 to cast their ballots for U.S. president, members of the U.S. House of Representatives and members of the Kentucky General Assembly, they also will be able to vote on an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution to protect  a “right” that already exists in Kentucky and is in no way threatened.

So why is the so-called “right to hunt” amendment even on the ballot? It’s because the National Rifle Association says it is important, and whatever the NRA wants in Kentucky, the NRA gets, including an unnecessary constitutional amendment.

The Kentucky amendment on the November ballot reads, “The citizens of Kentucky have the personal right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, using traditional methods, subject only to statutes enacted by the Legislature, and to administrative regulations adopted by the designated state agency to promote wildlife conservation and management and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”

We don’t know many people who would vote against that, and that includes many Kentuckians who seldom or never go hunting or fishing. We also plan to vote for the amendment; we just don’t think it should be on the ballot.

To be sure there are a few Kentuckians who oppose hunting, but they are not outspoken in calling for legislators to enact a law banning hunting. They simply express their opposition by not hunting. For that matter, there are also many  Kentuckians who are vegetarians, but they are not out in the streets demanding that the sale of meat be banned in Kentucky. They simply don’t  eat meat and don’t worry about what others do.

Even some who personally oppose hunting recognize the vital role hunters play in controlling the size of wildlife herds in the state. There are many who believe there are too many white-tail deer in Kentucky, but if it were not for hunters, the number of deer roaming the state would be much larger, as would the number of  accidents caused by deer darting into paths of oncoming vehicles.

State government certainly is not attempting to ban hunting. Just the opposite in fact. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources — which is funded through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses — actively promotes hunting and fishing. The department imported elk from western state into Kentucky with the expressed goal of re-introducing elk hunting in a state where the large number of elk in Kentucky at the time of Daniel Boone had been eliminated by overhunting. Now elk hunting is attracting hunters from throughout the United States to Kentucky.

Kentucky became one of the first state’s east of the Mississippi River to have a hunting season for sandhill crane, a large bird that simply passes through Kentucky on its way north in the spring and south in the fall. While not many Kentucky hunters expressed an interest in shooting sandhill cranes, the fact that the state even offered a hunting season for them shows just how pro-hunting state government is in Kentucky.  

Come Nov. 7, Kentuckians can take comfort in knowing that the “right to hunt” is firmly established in the state constitution. It won’t change a thing, but it will further affirm that legislators in this state still bow to the wishes of the NRA.

Kentucky is hardly alone in promoting the right the hunt. At the urging of the NRA and with the support of many sporting leagues, and many sporting leagues, voters in more than a dozen states already have approved similar amendments to their state constitutions. Hunting was not at risk of being outlawed in any of those states.

While Kentucky voters will be protecting a right to hunt, other, more important constitutional amendments will not even be on the ballot. We can think of a lot changes that would improve the state’s 1891 constitution, such as amendments to eliminate the unnecessary offices of constable and of lieutenant governor, and another one that would give the people a voice on whether gambling should be expanded in Kentucky.

But those issues are for another day. Meanwhile we will be protecting an existing right that is not threatened. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?