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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Charles City Bans Rifles for Deer Hunting

Charles City County held a joint Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors Meeting on Tuesday (April 22nd). After a lengthy and contentious comment period, they imposed an outright ban on using rifles for deer hunting. Shotguns, muzzleloaders and bowhunting for deer are still allowed.

As noted here on March 22nd, the county allowed rifles for deer hunting for the first time, as long as hunters were in a stand at least 10 feet above ground. Prior to that, deer hunters were limited to shotguns, bows and muzzleloaders. When rifles were deemed legal, “Lots of people went out and spent thousands of dollars on new rifles, scopes, ammunition and tree stands,” said one county resident. “Now they don’t want to let us use them.”

Supporters of the ban voiced concerns about safety, despite the fact that in the two seasons when rifle hunting was allowed, not one documented accident occurred. Much of the county’s land is flat (hence the 10-foot above ground rule), and there was great concern that such terrain increases the potential for missed shots to strike unintended targets. The fundamental safety rule that all hunters know, “Be sure of your target, and what’s beyond,” addresses this very issue, but in the minds of the rifle-banners the rule doesn’t make a difference.

At meeting, Elbert Parker, who supported the ban, resorted to the dramatic by holding up a small cut-out section of plywood and aluminum siding and said, “This is all that stands between a bullet and your children.”

But various parties, including a representative of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, provided comment on how enviable Virginia’s hunter safety record is. And resident Chuck Schreiber pointed out that rifles are legal in neighboring Henrico County, which has 238 people per square mile. “But Charles City County only has 34,” Schreiber explained. “There are enough facts to prove this is not a safety issue,” he continued. “If it was, I’d be the first one to support it.”

Hardly mentioned in the debate was how the restriction might actually discourage people from continuing to hunt, and how that might affect control of the county’s deer population. In the three minutes I had to speak, I made these points to the Board and explained some of the consequences of too many deer. But the increased potential for crop damage, Lyme disease, deer-automobile collisions and habitat destruction fell on deaf ears.

In addition to the outright ban, the Board of Supervisors considered two somewhat less restrictive options. One would have allowed continued use of rifles, but not within 1,000 feet of a school, residence or county recreation area, without written permission. Opposing this option, Jim Reed told the board that there are seven homes within 1,000 feet of his land. “I don’t shoot in the direction of any of them,” Reed said, “but if even one of those homeowners doesn’t like me, he can prevent me from using my own property. That’s wrong.”

The other option would have allowed rifles, included the 1,000-foot restriction, and limited rifles to just one week of the general firearms deer season. A motion was made to adopt this rule, but the Board held out for the total rifle ban. Arguing hardest for the ban was Supervisor Sherri Bowman, who was elected last year and made a campaign promise to eliminate rifle hunting. In the end, the Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 in favor of the ban.

As a room full of angry citizens filed out of the auditorium, a gentleman was overhead saying “We’ll see you in November.”

The myth that shotguns are somehow safer or universally “less powerful” than rifles may be comforting to the uninformed, but studies show that ballistics of some modern shotgun slugs rival or even surpass those of some centerfire rifle bullets. Regardless of that, what makes hunting safe is the hunter. It does not matter what type of firearm is used. Nationwide, hunting accidents declined nearly 63 percent between 1995 and 2004.

VSSA members and hunters who hunt in Charles City County should contact members of the Board, especially, Ms. Bowman, and politely but firmly express your disappointment with their decision and that you will remember their vote the next time they are up for election.

Hat Tip to NRA Hunters Rights.
But it’s hunters who are making the county safe, not politicians.

3 comments: said...

for simular hunting try acrossbow.www.igo bow

robert said...

the people of the county can have ms bowman removed from office. all they need to do is get a petition together with appox, two thirds of the county residents and have a special election to fill the vacancy. it is called redress of grievances. someone would have to check on the number of signatures reguired on the petition.

Reed Meriwether said...

My company's webfilters won't allow me to pull up your website. So I had to leave this as a comment!!

I have been getting a huge response in recent days regarding the issue of hunting on Sundays. Senate Bill 850 has been filed and will be debated next week. SB850 would allow hunting on Sundays in Virginia. While I am sure it is not unanimous, most of hunters that have contacted me are in favor of allowing hunters the right to choose whether or not to hunt on Sundays. I have recently updated my website devoted to this cause. If possible, please pass along my website address to your friends and contacts so they can be informed on what’s going on. I hope to testify before the Senate committee when this issue is discussed. I will post information on my website as to the time and location of the hearing and events as they unfold. I really appreciate any help you can provide.

Thank You

Reed Meriwether
(804) 920-9856