A proposedhunting lawa tough one

Bladen County commissioners are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to an issue pitting the potential safety of residents along public rural roadways and the numerous hunters in the county — and we’re not going to make things much easier on commissioners, because we can see both sides.

At Monday’s regular board meeting, a public hearing to discuss a proposed new law that would essentially ban hunters from having a loaded weapon while on the side of a public road and/or while collecting their dogs attracted a standing-room-only crowd from both sides of the issue. You can read the story from that discussion by W. Curt Vincent on Page 1A today.

We will first commend hunters and residents alike for being respectful while offering their opinions.

The discussion about the proposed law, when boiling the comments from both sides down to their basics, became clear that it is a potential safety issue versus the tradition of roadway dog hunting in the region. It’s extremely easy to argue for either side, and just as difficult to argue against either side.

We certainly don’t envy the county commissioners in their task of deciding this issue — and, in fact, think it might behoove the board not to render a decision either way. We will eventually explain.

There are obviously quite a few hunters from the county and beyond who want to hold tight to the traditions involved with hunting from the roadway with dogs — including the fact that they have always been allowed to carry a loaded weapon. It’s what they grew up doing, just as their fathers and grandfathers had before them. They feel a law forcing them to unload their weapons is an infringement on their Second Amendment rights; they also think the proposed law is directed squarely at those hunters who use dogs.

On the other side are residents who are growing tired of having rows of trucks parked along their road with more and more dogs roaming the area and hunters bearing loaded weapons walking the roadside and even on their property while retrieving their dogs. They think the increasing presence of hunters with dogs — which also makes things challenging for motorists — is becoming a recipe for disaster and want to err on the side of safety before something bad happens.

Because both sides opined their positions so well, we can’t see where the county commissioners could possibly resolve the issue with a vote either way. And while elected officials surely understand that a vote on any issue has the potential to create friends as well as enemies, we think they have an obligation in this case NOT to decide between a special interest group versus rural residents.

Instead, we would suggest the Board of Commissioners should make the proposed new law a ballot item in the Nov. 6 General Election. Let the people of Bladen County decide whether they want to follow the precedence set by Robeson and Cumberland counties to ban loaded weapons from public roadways (which is partially to blame for more hunters coming here) or allow the practice to continue.

It may very well be the smartest and most logical option available to the county.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Don’t underestimate the people. Let them decide.” (Thaksin Shinawatra)