Politicians get used to being criticized in attack mailers. But it’s hard to dismiss being attacked for something you’ve never officially taken a position on in the first place. Let’s turn to our
thrice twice weekly George Polk Award-winning local paper for the details:
The National Rifle Association found itself having to apologize late last week to the Moore County Board of Commissioners when the organization sent an email to its members that the board opposed a state measure that would allow Sunday hunting on private lands.
The commissioners have taken no such position on House Bill 640, called the “Outdoor Heritage Act.” In fact, the matter hasn’t even come before the board.
The email, sent Thursday, April 23, said in the subject line: “Your county commissioners voted against critical Sunday hunting legislation, urge them to reconsider their vote!”
Made aware of the mistake, the NRA dispatched another email Friday afternoon to its members with a clarification.
“Unfortunately, NRA was given information indicating Moore County commissioners had voted to take a position on House Bill 640, the Outdoor Heritage Act,” the email said. “They have not. NRA will communicate its apologies to the county commissioners for this confusion, but please rest assured that they have not taken a position on House Bill 640.”
Nick Picerno, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said Monday afternoon that County Attorney Misty Leland had emailed the commissioners with the NRA’s clarification.
“The NRA had it totally wrong,” he said of the the first email last week. “It was completely bogus. I am not sure where this information came from.”
Picerno said state Rep. Jamie Boles contacted him the day the legislation was introduced, April 13, and asked about putting Moore County in as an exemption. Picerno said he could not speak for the board, since it had not taken any position on the legislation.
“I personally have no problem with it,” he said of the provision that would permit hunting on Sunday on private land. “If it is your property, you ought to be able to do that. I didn’t know you could not hunt on Sunday.”
Picerno said he received three or four emails from Moore County residents after the NRA sent its first alert. He said he explained that the board has not discussed the legislation nor taken a position on it.
“The bill has already been filed,” he said. “It is a state issue, not a county issue anyway.”
The Pilot queried the NRA’s legislative action division about where the information came from about the commissioners opposing the measure, as well as how many people had received the emails, which provided the names, phone numbers and email addresses of the five commissioners. The NRA had not responded by deadline Tuesday afternoon
But it sounds like our legislator, Rep. Jamie Boles (R), is fine and dandy with keeping the Sunday ban in place:
Boles confirmed Tuesday morning that he is seeking to have Moore County exempt from the legislation when it does come to the House floor. He is not alone; at least 30 counties are asking to be exempt, according to a list provided by Boles.
“What I don’t like is that they have carved out counties of 700,000 population or more,” he said in a brief telephone interview. “It is another example of rural vs. urban.”
Boles said he understands that he would be bucking the powerful NRA in seeking the exemption. He said emails and phone calls from his constituents are running “three to one” against allowing Sunday hunting.
“I am here to represent my constituents,” he said.
Boles said he has not been contacted by anyone from the NRA but has received two emails from hunters who favor the legislation allowing Sunday hunting.
The bill, which was filed April 13, received approval from the House Wildlife Resources Committee on April 15, but it was withdrawn from the House calendar April 21 and re-referred to the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee, of which Boles is a member.
He said the committee passed the bill Monday and it was possible it could be brought up for a vote Tuesday afternoon (after The Pilot’s press deadline).
Boles said he other representatives from the counties seeking exemptions were working with the sponsors of the bill to amend it.
“That is my desire to make Moore County exempt from Sunday hunting,” he said. “It is all a big to-do about nothing.”
Under the proposed bill, landowners, their family members or someone with written permission from the property owner could hunt with firearms on Sunday on private land. It would still prohibit hunting migratory water fowl, hunting deer with dogs, and hunting within 300 yards of a church or other place of worship on Sundays.
The first email from the NRA said the commissioners had voted to “undermine” the legislation, which it termed “a critical pro-hunting bill” and said “it is imperative that you contact them immediately and urge them to take action to correct this travesty.”
The NRA said the legislation would “protect hunting for future generations.” It said the Beaufort County commissioners recently retracted their previous opposition and voted to support the bill.
It said allowing hunting seven days a week benefits the “entire state — not just select counties.” It also noted that North Carolina is one of only nine states that prohibit or restrict Sunday hunting on private lands “due to antiquated ‘blue laws’ dating back to the 1700s.”
“While hunting is restricted in North Carolina, other activities such as fishing, hiking and target shooting remain perfectly legal on the seventh day of the week,” the initial NRA email said. “Between work, school and other obligations that occur throughout the week and on Saturdays, Sunday hunting bans work to discourage hunting at a time when hunter recruitment and participation must be encouraged in order to save our hunting heritage.”
The national group contends that allowing hunting on Sundays will help local businesses, as well as “cash-strapped rural counties. Every day that hunters are in the field, they spend money on fuel, food, lodging and dozens of incidentals that go along with a day’s hunt.”