Outside of Florida, North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without a constitutional protection for the right to hunt and fish. The map below offers an update, current from May of last year, of where states stand on adding this to their respective constitutions. (Much more on the current situation in North Carolina below).
Of course, North Carolina has legislation pending right now with SB 677, which as of today unanimously cleared committee. As I mentioned in my recent Toxic Agenda piece on firearms, North Carolina has a larger rural population than any other state except for Texas and proportionally has the largest rural population amongst the 10 most populous states.
Most of these hunting and fishing constitutional amendments are recent to the last few years, and they are easily being approved by states when placed on the ballot. Currently, 22 states now have protections in their constitutions. One example, Mississippi, approved their amendment with the support of 88 percent of the voters in 2014. Our most recent Civitas Poll shows the support for an amendment in North Carolina at 72 percent. Vermont has had the protection in the state constitution since 1777. They stood alone until the mid-1990s.
Probably the only legitimate debate on the issue is whether it needs to be placed in the constitution for a right and practice that is so well understood and predates our system of government. The bill doesn’t change any legal laws or regulations in regards to hunting and fishing an only strengthens the existing right. To remove it after the amendment would require voter approval.
One can certainly argue about the cultural and political implications of needing to enshrine rights already long established, but still, I think an amendment in North Carolina for this is worthwhile for a few reasons.
Increased urbanization and massive population migration in N.C. from many states with less use of recreational hunting and fishing is something to consider. The growth of urban and suburban sectors of our state that may threaten lands traditionally utilized for hunting and fishing is another. And while the Second Amendment has little to do with protecting the right to hunt and fish, yes we still see politicians claiming this is the reason that protection is in the Bill of Rights, it’s possible its yet another way to help bolster firearm protections here.
Essentially the amendment works to protect against future threats to the right to hunt and fish that do not exist today, especially in North Carolina. The amendment may bring more rural voters to the ballot too, which is undoubtedly good in a state where urban growth sometimes conflicts with their voice and values.