From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Lawmakers want hunting to be a constitutional right.

In Annals of Bad Ideas, Constitutional amendments on 1 April 2009 at 2:43 pm

Over the course of this legislative session, there have been more than a few wrongheaded, irrational and just-plain-dumb policies proposed by our public servants. None has been more jaw-dropping in its absurdity than a committee’s decision today to refer to voters an amendment creating a constitutional right to hunt and fish.

There are two very major problems with this amendment. One is that, since the legislature can only refer three amendments to voters, it bumps from consideration more serious proposals that might actually help the people of Arkansas. The second is that the idea of a right to hunt and fish is dubious on its face.

To deal with the first problem first. This is a bill that will not benefit regular Arkansans.  The sponsors’ argument for the amendment is that PETA is struggling to ban hunting across the U.S.  Yet the only actual ban they could cite was a Michigan prohibition on dove hunting. That dearth of evidence offers proof, as if any were needed, that the idea of a left-wing interest group getting hunting prohibited in Arkansas is ludicrous.

Like so much culturally charged legislation, the amendment changes absolutely nothing. It does, however, benefit lawmakers who could use the support of the NRA in their next campaign. The NRA is in full support of the amendment and testified in its favor.

Two legislators deserve particular opprobrium for their actions today. One is Sen. Gilbert Baker, who grandstanded his support for the amendment in the course of a condescending speech to Rep. Butch Wilkins, who had asked some very reasonable questions  about lawsuits that could result from the amendment. (“This is for the Baker boys!” the senator said in reference to his seven hunting sons.)

The worst performance, however, was that of Sen. Steve Faris, who as chair of the committee was able to push through the amendment — which he is the lead sponsor of — before the nine other proposals on the table were even considered. Those proposals included three finance amendments that would allow the state to attract investment to Arkansas — a more important priority, I would submit, than promising the state’s hunters that no one will take their sport away. As a chairman, Sen. Faris should know better than to ram through legislation that prioritizes himself and the interests of the NRA over the people of Arkansas. Shame on him.

Then there’s the second issue: should anyone really have a right to hunt and fish? A right? Rights should be a bit more exclusive than that. Free speech, free exercise of religion, due process — these are rights. But if you’re going to insert a ‘right’ for one special interest into the constitution you might as well crumple the document and wipe your bum with it.

Maybe if the legislature is running around giving out rights they’ll decide to pass the ERA, too. Anyone want to lay the odds?

PS. The committee did manage to pass one real amendment proposal — voters will have to decide whether to lower the requirements an economic development project must meet before Arkansas can issue bonds to support it.

That leaves the committee with one more amendment to refer next week. Talks are currently in the works to combine two amendments into one. The Frankenstein amendment would allow the state to issue bonds for energy conservation projects and would also allow the state to pay higher yields on bond issues.

  1. Please inform the sportsmen that the right to hunt amendment is very dangerous to the sport they enjoy. While it may well sound good. It will in effect wipeout all case history that is currently used by the courts to protect their hunting privelige. If the anti-hunting groups are to be active in Arkansas it is that that will allow them into the court system. Arkansas currently enjoys the best hunting possible due mostly to amendment 35 of the Arkansas consitution this proposed amendment could effectly gut that very useful tool. This amendment was put on the ballot by missguided uninformed politicans. It is important the people of Arkansas don’t take the bait.

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