Opinion

Hunting and fishing a part of North Carolinians’ heritage

Chris Kopacki is the National Rifle Association’s state director.
Chris Kopacki is the National Rifle Association’s state director.

Hunting and fishing are cherished North Carolina traditions that, when paired with science, are an integral part of wildlife management and conservation.

Unfortunately, misguided extremists have been trying for decades to ban hunting through incremental steps, often unnoticed by the public, or through outright bans on certain species. That is why the National Rifle Association is supporting the statewide ballot initiative this November that would amend the North Carolina Constitution to protect the right to hunt and fish. This amendment will guarantee that the outdoor sporting traditions North Carolinians’ enjoy will be preserved for future generations.

Unfortunately, extremist political groups have succeeded in chipping away at hunting rights in many states. California banned mountain lion hunting in the 1990s; Michigan banned dove hunting in the 2000s; and just this year, New Jersey’s governor unilaterally banned bear hunting. Every election year, there are proposed hunting bans in states across the country.

For North Carolinians, the time to protect their hunting and fishing heritage is now.

Support for North Carolina’s hunting heritage is supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. The resolution to bring this amendment to the ballot passed the state Senate by a bipartisan vote of 41-6 and the House by a bipartisan vote of 92-23.

The idea of a state constitutional amendment to protect these basic rights is not new. Every state that borders North Carolina has already passed a similar constitutional amendment. In fact, a total of 21 states have constitutional amendments protecting the right to hunt and fish.

Passing a constitutional right to hunt and fish is also extremely important to funding fish and wildlife research and conservation. Hunters and anglers directly fund these efforts through a variety of licenses, taxes and fees.

In 2017, the sale of hunting licenses in North Carolina brought in $10.55 million and fishing licenses brought in $19.71 million. Those fees, paid by hunters and anglers, go straight into conservation. Without this revenue, the state of North Carolina would be hard pressed to fund its conservation efforts.

On top of that money, North Carolina receives funding each year from a federal excise tax collected on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. Last year, total revenue from firearms and ammunition taxes was $761.6 million. North Carolina received $20.7 million through this program.

These funds, as required by federal law, must be spent on wildlife conservation, hunter education and public shooting ranges. Because of this program, wildlife that was once in peril is now abundant. The wild turkey population in North Carolina, for example, has increased from an estimated 2,000 birds in 1970 to an estimated 265,000 birds in 2015, and has been restored to every county in the state.

Finally, hunting and fishing has a huge impact on the Tar Heel State’s economy. According to the N.C. Outdoor Industry Association, more than half of North Carolina residents participate in outdoor recreation each year, generating $28 billion for the state’s economy.

It’s time for North Carolina to make hunting and fishing a right, not just a privilege. Vote yes on the Right to Hunt and Fish Constitutional Amendment!

Chris Kopacki is the National Rifle Association’s North Carolina state director.

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