By Brad Fulton
RICHMOND – Virginians are one step closer to being able to hunt on Sundays. On a 29-11 vote Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would allow Sunday hunting on private land.
Sen. Ralph Northam, a Democrat from Norfolk, introduced Senate Bill 464. Originally, it would have completely lifted the state’s ban on hunting on Sundays. A committee folded into SB 464 legislation by Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, to permit Sunday hunting “on private property, either as a landowner, the landowner’s spouse or the children of the landowner, or with the written permission of the landowner.”
At the request of Sen. Charles Carrico, R-Galax, senators further amended the measure to prohibit hunters from hunting within 250 yards of a place of worship.
Of the 20 Democratic senators, 17 for the bill and three voted against it.
Of the 20 Republican senators, 12 voted for the bill and eight voted against it.
“I’m glad that the Senate acted decisively today to roll back an archaic restriction on a constitutional right in Virginia,” Petersen said after the floor vote.
The bill would rescind a state law that prohibits hunting on Sunday on public or private land, declaring it a “rest day for all species of wild bird and wild animal life, except raccoons, which may be hunted until 2:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell said last week that he agrees with lifting the ban on hunting on Sundays on private property.
Opposition to lifting the ban has come from groups such as the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Humane Society.
Petersen noted that the National Rifle Association supports his efforts to eliminate the ban on Sunday hunting. According to a survey, two-thirds of licensed hunters in Virginia support hunting on Sundays, Petersen said.
The bill now goes to the Virginia House of Delegates. If passed, the measure could open up Sunday hunting as early as next hunting season.
How they voted
Here is how senators voted on SB 464 (which included the “private lands” provision and the restrictions against hunting near churches).
YEAS -- Barker, Black, Blevins, Carrico, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Garrett, Herring, Howell, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Reeves, Saslaw, Stanley, Stosch, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins -- 29.
NAYS -- Colgan, Deeds, Hanger, Locke, Martin, McDougle, Newman, Obenshain, Ruff, Smith, Stuart -- 11.
Brad Fulton writes for Capital News Service.