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Patrick Gannon: Hunting, fishing don’t belong in the constitution

RALEIGH – “We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.”

“Slavery is forever prohibited.”

“The right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, including by the use of traditional methods, shall not be infringed, subject to laws and regulations to promote wildlife conservation and management, to maintain natural resources in trust for public use, and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing…”

Recall that old Sesame Street song, which went like this:

One of these things is not like the others,

One of these things just doesn’t belong.

Can you tell which thing is not like the others

By the time I finish my song?

Three of the statements that began this column are already parts of the N.C. Constitution. The other one is not, but is proposed in a Senate bill to be added by a vote of the people this November.

Can you tell which thing is not like the others? Can you tell which one just doesn’t belong?

If you guessed the one about hunting and fishing, you would be correct.

Earlier this legislative session, three state senators – all of whom are or were up for re-election or election to higher offices this year – filed a bill to ask voters in November whether to enshrine in the Constitution the rights of people to hunt and fish.

A bill sponsor, Republican Sen. Andrew Brock of Mocksville, told The News & Observer that the “makes perfect sense” because “we’ve come under attack recently by activist groups, anti-gun groups and anti-hunting and fishing groups.”

Don’t get me wrong. Fishing is one of my favorite things to do and has been for most of my life. I’m not a hunter, but I have nothing against hunting, as long as it’s done legally, safely and humanely.

But this proposed constitutional amendment is perilously close on the asinine index to a bill filed a few years ago to require couples seeking divorce in North Carolina to be separated for two years instead of one. (Yes, a real-life senator filed that bill.)

I also enjoy baseball, birdwatching and bowling, but they shouldn’t be protected in our state’s founding documents, even if college basketball threatens to dethrone baseball as the national pastime or bowling balls get regulated because they can fall on your toes.

Yes, 19 states guarantee the right to hunt and fish in their constitutions, with 17 of those approved by voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont’s language dates back to 1777, but the rest have passed since 1996. (I’m guessing the sponsors in those states were up for re-election, too.)

The hunting and fishing amendment, just so you know, would be Section 38 of the Constitution, right after a section on the rights of crime victims, including “the right as prescribed by law to be informed of and to be present at court proceedings of the accused.” It would be a few sections down from the right to bear arms.

Senate Bill 889 currently resides in the Senate Rules Committee, where some bills go to die and others get resurrected. I can only hope in this case it’s the former. But if the constitutional amendment shows up on your ballot in November, vote against it.

As Big Bird would sing, it “just doesn’t belong” in the Constitution.

Patrick Gannon is the editor of the Insider State Government News Service in Raleigh. Reach him at pgannon@ncinsider.com.

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