Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Virginia Delegate Lee Ware - Unknowing Ally in the Effort to End Hunting

Update - 1/17/13 - the scene is rapidly changing with regard to these bills.  Four out of five (the most compromising) were summarily tabled. The most aggressive bill, HB 2225, has not been scheduled for hearings but appears (at this moment) to still be alive.  When and if facts arise that contradict my predictions below about Delegate Ware's maneuvers on Sunday hunting, I will print a lengthy, separate correction that will be linked to the top of this post. 

Across the country, advocates for our hunting heritage are working tirelessly to expand access and opportunity to hunters.   More hunting days.  More places to hunt.  More ways to hunt.   Extensive studies show that these factors help drive hunter retention and recruitment within our community.  Those same studies show that the failure to expand opportunities for hunting has coincided with a decrease not only in hunters, but in participants in other outdoor activities as well.  Anti-hunting activists are well aware of this, and are working throughout the country, including throughout Virginia, to decrease the amount of access and opportunity that hunters might have.  Anti-hunters, of course, dream of a day when hunting is no longer legal.

In Virginia today, a perplexing thing will happen.  You see, within the first three full days of Virginia's 2013 Legislative Session, no less than five separate bills were proposed to expand hunting opportunities for Virginians (and for big spending hunters interested in traveling to Virginia).  These bills all seem to reflect a variety of well-thought out issues related to Sunday hunting - from deer and deer tick population control in Northern Virginia (HB 1762) to the transfer of the "sunday hunting ban" on military installations to the discretion of the base commander, to a revocation of the "sunday hunting ban" on private properties only (HB 2225).  None of the proposals, on their face, seem unreasonable or absurd.

So, as in years past, it is time for Delegate Lee Ware's Natural Resources SubCommittee to go to work on the business of governance.  This is particularly perplexing for Delegate Ware, who has been a vocal opponent of Sunday hunting.  Well, sort of.  Let's recall Ware's record here - he staunchly opposes Sunday hunting, but authored a bill - which became law - to make it illegal for game wardens to "assume" that a hunter "in the woods with a gun" is "hunting on Sunday.").   I think we can all agree that Ware paints himself into an amusing corner on the issue.

What's less amusing is that Ware has the opportunity to "get right" with the hunting community and with property rights advocates in the Commonwealth - by simply allowing some limited form of Sunday hunting for the general public, at least in some counties, at least for those who can get landowner permission or who are hunting on their very own property.    Yet, he will not get right.  He won't change at all, in fact.

 He scheduled every single Sunday hunting related bill to be heard and discussed, off the record, one after the other, rapid fire, at 5:00pm on the Subcommittee's first full day of business (today, January 16, 2013) (previous to today, their time has been taken up in committees as well as in the approval of elected state judges, and other formalities of the Session).  The Bills' patrons have individually requested extensions for times and dates more conducive to discussion and debate.  Ware has rebuffed each request.  Delegate Lee Ware intends to use his privilege  as Sub-Committee Chair to continue to summarily prevent landowners from hunting on their own property one day a week.  Many of his donors are hunters.  Some oppose Sunday hunting.  Some favor Sunday hunting.  All voted for him.  In my mind, that means that a detailed consideration of this legislation is very important.

Delegate Lee Ware doesn't believe that he is harming the future of hunting of Virginia - one of only seven states with an outright ban on sunday hunting.  He probably doesn't know (even though the NRA has reported on it several times) that Virginia is one of the few states that are not gaining hunters, and in fact, Virginia is suffering approximately a 3% attrition rate for hunting license sales - one of the worst in the nation.   All this while moms and dads shuttle kids around on Saturdays, and on Sundays, have to fumble for an answer when their kids ask, "Why can't we go hunting after church, but we can go fishing and target shooting and bike riding?"

Delegate Lee Ware, it appears to me, has never considered these things because they are not reality to him - and not because he is dumb, or lazy, or selfish. His family and his local friends enjoy a strong hunting tradition, rooted in decades of family, business, church fellowship, and good relationships that lead to high quality access to tens of thousands of acres of hunting land.  No, I really don't believe that Ware knows he is harming our sporting tradition.  I don't believe that he's in any way aware that true threats to our traditions really exist, because perhaps these threats have not quite permeated the conversations of hunters in his area.  An area where terms like "hunter harassment" and "interfering with a legal hunt" are foreign phrases.

But the anti-hunters know.  Oh boy, do they.  I've read that they've stopped sending representatives to Richmond on this issue because they know that they can count on Republican Lee Ware to represent their best interest - to slowly but steadily put out the flame of hunting tradition in Virginia.   They won't have to fight property rights advocates who rightly ask, "Why sunday, on my land?" They won't have to face it, because Lee Ware will handle it for them, without knowing he's doing them a favor.

 And today, at 5:00pm, every Sunday hunting-related bill proposed to the Virginia House of Delegates will be summarily tabled for another year.   Anti-hunting activists and eco-terrorists will celebrate.  So will Lee Ware and his staff.  Both camps will claim victory.  But only one group actually prevailed.  

If you listen closely, you can hear their celebration across the miles:  "Here's to 3% fewer Virginia hunters in 2013! Three cheers for Lee Ware!"

If this lack of government transparency concerns you, please use the Commonwealth's "Who's My Legislator?" tool to contact your local delegate today, January 16, 2013.  Please request (politely) that they ask Delegate Ware for the Bill to be heard outside of the Subcommittee, in the ACNR.  Even if you do not support Sunday hunting, please allow the Bill to be heard, on the record. 


Freewheel said...

This may be implicit in your post, but I'm wondering whether Del. Ware has ever stated that his opposition to Sunday hunting is based on Sunday religious observance. If so, what else is he trying to ban on Sundays? You make a good point about target shooting. Why is he singling out hunting?

Also wondering whether the anti-hunting lobby doesn't show up because of Ware, or maybe they don't show up because there are so few of them (I really don't know any anti-hunting group other than PETA)

River Mud said...

Del. Ware has been careful to state that religious observance is just one of the reasons he opposes Sunday hunting.

He repeatedly the need for spending time with family (but not closing liquor stores and strip clubs on Sundays), keeping the air free of stray bullets (but not banning target shooting on sundays), and letting "the environment" have a day of rest (but no mention of horseback riding, ending Sunday hound retrieval or fox, bear, and raccoon chases, or of course FISHING on sundays).

Of course, if we want to keep hunters in the pews, based on elementary Constitutional law, we need to close down hunting on every holy day/day of observance for every organized religion, which essentially means sunset friday to sunset monday, if I'm not mistaken.

It's a bizarre logical position to state that you support individual rights, except for the right to harvest your own food on your own property on Sundays during legal hunting season.

Anonymous said...

Del. Lee Ware constantly opposes hunting on Sunday, because he (and his cronies) want to round up all their deer hounds on Sunday, and doesn't want interference from anyone. The deer hounds can't read signs, so they're on this tract of land, that tract of land, and even YOUR land as well!!!

Anonymous said...

I think our best chance of getting Sunday hunting is to put all of our efforts into getting legislation to make it possible for citizens to actually get referendums on the ballet. That would provide a real check on power for people like Lee Ware. Google the issue, VA has one of the most backward referendum processes in the country.

Anonymous said...

True Anonymous, as the GA has to approve putting something on the ballot as a referendum. This is tyranny at it's best. Ware probably supports the big 23 proposed by the president today.

Anonymous said...

I spoke to one of Delegate Ware's neighboring assemblymen yesterday (my dad's district). I couldn't talk to Lee Ware himself (or Garrett, so I'll chalk it up to them being busy).
This other delegate told me that when he polled his district (neighboring ours to the south), opposition to Sunday hunting by landowners was very high, and that Sunday hunting was one of the most protested bills in his district. We may just need more hunters to complain about it. Send short emails. Your emails and letters about a bill go into a 'yes' or 'no' pile, and get read by the legislative assistant only. Del Ware isn't reading them; he just gets a count of how many people favor or oppose the bill. So don't send a wall of text email, it's a waste of time. Anyway, no Sunday hunting is a PITA. They should visit a WMA or SF sometime and see the nearly total absence of hunters from Monday-Friday. Critters get to rest almost all week! For us M-F working hunters, Sunday hunting would double our opportunities.

River Mud said...

I find that part fascinating, because, except for hound retrieval, any landowner can legally control the terms (and days) under which others can hunt on their property. For example, we had a goose field where on Saturdays, we could not shoot until 9am so as to not wake the owner's wife. A legal hunter makes the decision to either deal with the LO's wishes, or to hunt elsewhere.

But what these landowners are worried about are the poachers and trespassers who already abuse the land and the game animals AT LEAST six days a week. They have a false sense that these poachers don't trespass or poach on sundays just because hunting is not allowed. What they don't understand is that this is a law enforcement issue, not a sunday hunting issue. They need more game wardens with greater power. Not less legal hunting.

It's as laughable as the old sunday closure on alcohol sales having any impact on sunday drinking. People who want to break the law, will break the law.

When it comes to Ware, he's a subcommittee chair. He has a job above his duty to represent his constituents (and their alleged distaste for sunday hunting). He also has to run the committee, which should involve hearing bills that are controversial. Not tabling them just because his district (according to him) doesn't favor them.

As for a "day of rest," how about Tuesdays and Wednesdays? Then the wildlife could go from one "day of rest" to two?

Of course, anyone who ever had high school biology will tell you that wildlife has no day of rest. There's simply no such thing.