RICHMOND, Va. — Hunting on private land on Sundays is one step closer to becoming law with passage of a bill by the Virginia Senate.
Sen. Ralph Northam's measure advanced to the House of Delegates on a 29-11 vote over the objection of senators who said it would discourage people from other outdoor pursuits on Sundays, the only day when sportsmen aren't firing guns nearby.
The bill applies only to people who wish to hunt on their own property or the private land of someone else provided they carry with them written permission from its owner.
Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, said his daughters are avid equestrians who love horseback trail rides, but do so only on Sundays when stray bullets aren't a threat. "Bullets don't know where property lines are," said Deeds, whose wooded, mountainous home county is popular with hunters.
Sen. Richard Stuart, a Republican and an avid hunter from Stafford's sprawling suburbs, said the measure would breed resentment from non-hunters afraid to enjoy the outdoors on Sundays.
"People tolerate us hunters and they do it because they have Sundays to enjoy their property," Stuart said. "This is going to ruin hunting as we know it."
Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Roanoke County, was more succinct in his opposition, citing the Fourth Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."
The sponsor of a Sunday hunting bill that got incorporated into Northam's, Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, said the bill gives working people time to hunt on weekends. He said no state bordering Virginia outlaws Sunday hunting.
Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, scoffed at Deeds' fears of non-hunters being shot. Most hunting injuries were to hunters themselves, many of them resulting from deer hunters falling from perches they've made for themselves high in trees. Injuries to others, he said, are rare.
"I'm not aware of anyone being shot off a horse," he said. "When I think of people getting shot off a horse, I think of old Westerns."
Another opponent, Senate Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw, referred to long-ago blue laws that forbade certain businesses on Sundays. When they were repealed, people predicted dire consequences, but none happened, he said.