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By Scott Wartman
One statewide issue on November’s ballot in Kentucky will allow voters to decide whether hunting and fishing will become a constitutionally protected right.
Whether the proposed constitutional amendment will have any impact or is needed depends on who you ask.
The General Assembly passed in 2011 the legislation filed by State Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, to put the amendment on the ballot.
The National Rifle Association backs the amendment, as it has with the 12 states that have passed similar legislation since 1996. Prior to 1996, only Vermont had in its constitution a “Right to Hunt” law, which the state passed in 1777, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The wording of the amendment would put into the constitution language to prevent the prohibition of hunting, but would still allow for regulation “that promotes conservation and preserves the future of hunting and fishing.”
NRA officials contend making hunting and fishing a right in state constitutions will ward off any potential effort in the future to ban hunting.
But some say no such threat to hunting exists.
Deer hunter Nick Shack believes the amendment would protect his family tradition. When he’s not working, you can often find Shack during deer season with a bow in his hand hunting deer on his California, Ky., property. He’s hunted since he was a child and sees the amendment as necessary so his children can hunt.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” Shack said. “It gets me outside. It connects me with the past and the traditions of being outside hunting. It is camaraderie. I take a lot of hunting trips with friends. When I grew up, everyone deer hunted. It was a common thing, something we looked forward to every year.”
Many other hunters in Kentucky share Shack’s enthusiasm for hunting and support of the amendment. Combs, who sponsored the amendment, said hunters in her district in Pike County told her other states were passing this amendment and wanted her to push for one in Kentucky.
“I think there’s that general underlying concern among people interested in gun issues and gun rights, in particular hunters, that some group of people will come around and threaten our way of hunting today,” Combs said. “They want a comfort level that there is some protection.”
The amendment, however, might not matter.
Transylvania University Political Science Director Don Dugi said the amendment doesn’t change anything.
He likened it to Texas in the 19th Century putting in its constitution a ban on carrying wire cutters to prevent cattle rustling.
“It leads the constitution to be a hodgepodge of junk,” Dugi said.
The NRA, however, argues it will prevent certain measures backed in other states by the Humane Society and other organizations.