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House approves bill expanding Sunday hunting

Posted April 28, 2015 10:57 p.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2015 11:13 p.m. EDT

— Hunters would be able to use firearms to shoot deer on Sundays under a bill the state House passed 83-35 late Tuesday night.

Some methods of hunting are already allowed on Sundays. This bill would allow for the use of firearms with certain restrictions, the most notable of which requires hunters to stay 500 yards from a church or residence.

The bill has pitted hunters and others who say people should be able to enjoy their chosen recreation any day of the week against churchgoers and others who say Sunday should retain its special status as a day of rest.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, the bill's primary sponsor, said the bill also adds more regulations.

"I want you to feel safe on your property just as much on Tuesday afternoon as you do on Sunday afternoon," Dixon said.

That drew derision from Rep. William Brisson, D-Bladen, who said the state's wildlife resource officers are understaffed and unable to truly tackle the new laws.

"I'll tell you one more heritage that we have in this state," Brisson said, referencing the bill's "Outdoor Heritage Act" title. "It's our Christian heritage. No matter what denomination you are, I'll tell you, this state is known as a Christian state."

He and others argued that allowing for Sunday hunting would disturb churchgoers.

Some lawmakers from rural areas objected to a provision of the measure that exempted Wake and Mecklenburg counties from the Sunday hunting provisions, saying it was an unfair ploy to garner votes.

"What you are actually doing here by exempting these two counties is giving (members from those two counties) a way to vote on this bill that doesn't affect their counties," said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

Because those two counties are the state's biggest, they have the most representatives.

Others simply made the case that Sunday hunting was unwanted by people in rural areas. While the bill would allow county commissioners to shut down Sunday hunting in their areas after a two-year test period, Rep. Bob Steinberg, R-Chowan, said no test was needed.

"There is no confusion on their part. They don't need to try it out for a couple years to see. They don't want it," Steinberg said.

But Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, argued that hunting was little different from the bevy of festivals, road races, golf tournaments, sports events and other distractions that already take place on Sunday.

"It's simply a common-sense bill," Lucas said.

The measure now goes to the Senate for review.