New Sunday hunting bill introduced

Harrisburg — They’re going to try again.

Lawmakers and sportsmen are going to remove the state’s prohibition on Sunday hunting. Rep. Frank Farina, a Lackawanna County Democrat and the prime sponsor of the soon-to-be-introduced legislation, said as much during a press conference at the Capitol recently.

Flanked by fellow lawmakers who plan to co-sponsor his bill and representatives of the National Rifle Association, Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Hunting Works for Pennsylvania and National Shooting Sports Foundation, Farina said allowing hunting on Sundays would add $800 million to the state’s economy and create 7,000 jobs. 

All of that would come at a time “when Pennsylvania could really use the revenue,” he added.

“But the importance of Sunday hunting goes well beyond economic gains. It’s about passing along our heritage to generations to come,” Farina said.

The ban on Sunday hunting impairs that now, Farina said. Many people work six days a week; kids have school five days a week, and activities that gobble up their time on six or seven, he said.

“Times have changed. Our schedules and our lives have changed. And now it’s time that the outdated laws of Pennsylvania change as well,” Farina added.

Rep. Bob Godshall, a Montgomery County Republican, agreed, and said there’s precedence for changing such laws.

There was a time when the “blue laws” prohibited fishing on Sundays. That changed in 1937, he said. More recently, the law was changed to allow Sunday hunting on private game preserves.

“That means if you’re privileged, you can hunt on Sundays. If you’re not privileged, if you’re just a regular guy on the street, you can’t hunt on Sundays,” Godshall said.

Farina’s bill, which he plans to co-sponsor, would open the door to everyone and create equity, he added.

“There’s just absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t be erased,” Godshall said.

Farina also tried to ease the concerns some expressed about having to share the woods with hunters on Sundays. While his bill would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to decide which Sundays to open to hunting, based on seasons, it won’t be all of them.

“A lot of people are under the misconception that it’s 52 Sundays. It’s not 52 Sundays. Most likely you’re looking at eight to 12 Sundays, probably,” Farina said.

John Kline, spokesman for the Federation, agreed, and said adding an extra day to seasons won’t mean less game, as the commission could adjust for any pressure the extra day would bring.

None of this is new, of course. Janet Nyce, representing Hunting Works for Pennsylvania, said the question of allowing hunting on Sundays has been debated for 25 years. John Hohenwarter, state liaison for the NRA, agreed.

State and national groups have made it a keystone issue in recent years, however.

That doesn’t mean overturning the ban will necessarily be easy now, said Jake McGuigan, director of government relations for the Shooting Sports Foundation. But similar efforts have seen success in other states recently, so there’s hope.

Farina’s bill has yet to be assigned a bill number. That’s expected, however.

In the meantime, the NRA added expressed thoughts on why the bill is important in a press release issued after the press conference.

“Expanding Sunday hunting allows those who spend the week working, attending school, caring for their family or volunteering in the community to enjoy more time in the great outdoors,” said Chris Cox, NRA-ILA executive director. 

“America has an important hunting heritage, and Pennsylvania’s sportsmen and women deserve to have the same opportunities as hunters in other states.”

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