Constitutional amendment for hunters’ rights?
As of November 2018, 22 states have enshrined the right to hunt as part of their constitutions. New Hampshire Rep. Robert Forsythe, R-Boscawen, wants to add the Granite State to those ranks.
Forsythe has sponsored a concurrent resolution—a proposal for a constitutional amendment—this legislative session that would guarantee that “citizens of the state have the right to hunt subject to laws promoting sound wildlife conservation and management.”
Adding hunter’s rights to the NH constitution
The proposed constitutional amendment notes the historic nature of hunting, stating, “The traditions of hunting and fishing are valuable parts of the State's heritage, important for conservation, and a protected means of managing non-threatened wildlife.”
It also notes that the amendment would not abridge any private property rights—meaning it would not take away the right of property owners to control who hunts on their land. Nor would it seek to abolish any existing state laws and regulations related to hunting.
If approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, the amendment would still need the approval of two-thirds of the state’s voters.
One of the last constitutional amendments to pass in New Hampshire allows taxpayers the right to bring legal action against state or local government. It passed in November by more than the necessary two-thirds, 82.7 percent to 17.3 percent.
Why pass an amendment?
Currently, licensed individuals have a legal right to hunt in the Granite State, as long as they obey the rules. The amendment creates a constitutional right to hunt, as long as they obey the rules. So why propose the change?
Advocates say making that right part of the constitution makes it more difficult to take it away, for example if future legislators decided to substantially alter state law or repeal hunting laws altogether. They point to animal rights advocates and some environmentalists that already advocate for banning some hunting.
Opponents to an amendment say that the rights of New Hampshire hunters aren’t at risk, and that the amendment could make it difficult to pass reasonable restrictions on hunting in the future. Other opponents argue that the right to hunt – a form of recreation – should not be elevated to the same level as the rights to free speech, religion, self defense, and so on.
What do you think? Should New Hampshire have a constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to hunt? Let us know in the comments.
Responses to this question will be presented to legislators debating this bill, as part of our 2019 Citizen Voices® campaign. Only responses from NH residents will be counted. Please indicate if you are from NH in your response.