Legislature addresses hunters’ concerns
On Thursday, Senate Bill 345 passed the house by a vote of 92 to 5. Randolph County legislators William Hartman and Phillip Isner voted in favor of this bill that will allow certain hunting and trapping on private lands on Sundays.
Senate Bill 575 passed the house by a unanimous vote this past Tuesday. This bill protects sport shooting ranges from frivolous lawsuits and noise complaints. In the past, anti-gun activists have used frivolous lawsuits and noise complaints to legally closed down shooting ranges (private and public). If a shooting range is in compliance with federal and state laws, it should not be subjected to such senseless and unreasonable court action.
Senate Bill 388 will allow law-abiding citizens in possession of a concealed firearm to transport the weapon on school property while dropping off or picking up students as long as the gun does not leave the motor vehicle. The House Judiciary Committee passed this bill last week, and it is now waiting for a full house vote.
For bills 345 and 575 to now become law, they must now be signed by Gov. Jim Justice.
Early this week, I received a brief summary from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Section of all of the hunting incidents from last year. All told, there were 26 incidents in 2016. Eleven of these were tree-stand falls.
There was one shooting fatality that occurred in McDowell County where a 57-year-old shot a 47-year -old during the spring gobbler season with a shotgun.
There were three other shooting incidents in the state that were non-fatal. On April 30, 2016, a 63-year-old shot a 65-year-old while groundhog hunting due to an accidental rifle discharge in Barbour County. In Pocahontas County, a 35-year-old shot a 69-year-old on Nov. 12, 2016, who was mistaken for a turkey. In Berkeley County, a 34-year-old shot a 15-year-old who was mistaken for a squirrel. According to this brief summary, the youth was not wearing any blaze orange, which is not required during the squirrel season.
There were two self-inflicted gun shot wounds last year. The first was a 61-year-old who shot himself with a shotgun while squirrel hunting in Jackson County, officials said. The other was a 28-year-old who shot himself with a rifle while deer hunting in Ritchie County.
There were two incidents where the hunter slipped and fell. The first was a 31-year-old who fell in Lewis County while deer hunting. The other was 29-year-old who fell in Greenbrier County.
There were two other fatalities during the buck gun season in which the DNR would not disclose the details for the cause of death. The first was a 64-year-old in Barbour County, and the other was a 54-year-old in Clay County.
There were five other hunting incidents in West Virginia last year where the DNR would not disclose the cause of these mishaps.
All of these incidents occurred during the deer gun seasons in November and December in Doddridge, Harrison, Jefferson, Mineral and Tyler counties.
On two of these incidents, the DNR would not release the age of the victims.
It is interesting to know that youth hunters were not the shooters in any of these accidental shootings of another hunter who may have been mistaken for game.
One youth hunter was mistaken for a squirrel, and another youth hunter was injured when they slipped and fell, officials said.
When I started hunting in 1955, better than half and maybe closer to 75 percent of the hunting shooting accidents in this state involved youth hunters.
The DNR Hunter Education Course has made a big difference in this situation in our state.