Share This Page

Frye: Sunday hunting lawsuit is filed

| Sunday, July 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The battle is on.

Hunters United for Sunday Hunting and Kathy Davis of Speers filed a lawsuit in Middle District federal court in Harrisburg this past week seeking to have the state's prohibition against hunting on Sundays lifted. It claims the ban is unconstitutional under the First, Second and 14th amendments.

Attorney Peter Russo of Mechanicsburg writes in the suit that the Supreme Court has, in recent decisions, held hunting to be guaranteed by the right to bear arms. That's not been the case before, Davis said.

“That is hugely watershed,” she said.

Russo also writes the ban creates separate classes of citizens who are treated unequally. What's more, the “blue law” — designed to enforce religious standards — behind it no longer makes sense when people can gamble, buy alcohol, shop and more on Sundays, he writes.

The suit names the Pennsylvania Game Commission as the defendant, even though the agency in 2010 adopted a resolution supporting Sunday hunting.

“You can't sue a state over this. You have to sue the regulatory authority. So it's a bit of an oddball situation where we're actually suing an agency that supports our position,” admitted Brad Gehman of Lancaster County, another Hunters United board member. “It's weird.”

But the lawsuit is necessary because state lawmakers have repeatedly failed to overturn the ban on their own, said Josh First of Harrisburg, a board member for Hunters United.

“The legislature is paralyzed on this issue. So we have no other way to achieve our goal,” he said. “We're stuck.”

Lawmakers have held hearings on and debated various bills that would have either allowed Sunday hunting for specific species or given the Game Commission authority to decide whether to include Sundays in seasons. None went anywhere.

Neither Gary Haluska nor Marc Gergely, Democratic members of the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee from Cambria and Allegheny counties, respectively, could be reached to say why that is.

The Game Commission won't act as legislative guidance, though.

“It is our position that we lack the authority to lift the prohibition,” spokesman Travis Lau said, noting it was lawmakers who legalized the hunting of crows, foxes and coyotes on Sundays previously.

First doesn't disagree. But if the courts say the commission can roll Sundays into hunting seasons, the legislature likely will get involved and come up with guidelines, he said.

Families will be the main beneficiaries, Gehman said.

“Hunting is a family-building recreation,” Gehman said. “That's why we're doing this. We want to let kids get out and hunt when it fits their schedules. That's what this is all about.”

Ten other states ban Sunday hunting, but those rules are being contested, too. Safari Club International is looking into challenging the ban in Virginia.

All those laws ultimately will fall, First predicted, and that will help secure hunting's future.

“This is about having enough people who hunt, shoot and trap in the future so that we have a political presence,” he said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.