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Thread: "Hunting Bill Draws Fire"

  1. #1
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    May 2008
    SOuth Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

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    The cover is off Senate Bill 222. And based on a majority of recent testimony, its odds of passage just got longer.

    A public hearing on SB 222 was held Wednesday at the Capitol by the Assembly Fish and Wildlife Committee, chaired by Rep. Ann Hraychuck (D-Balsam Lake).

    The bill, sponsored by Sen. Russ Decker (D-Weston), has two key components: uncased guns in vehicles and group deer hunting.

    Changing a law that has been in place since 1917, the bill would allow citizens to carry uncased long guns in their vehicle.

    It would also change existing group hunting laws by repealing the visual and voice contact requirement, allow up to an hour to tag a deer and allow a deer to be left unattended and untagged for an hour.

    As an example, during the 9-day gun deer season the bill would allow a hunter to drive around with an uncased, unloaded gun on the seat next to them.

    The bill flew through the senate on a voice vote Feb. 23.

    Only later did it gain greater scrutiny.

    "I had people asking me who in their right mind would support having uncased guns in cars," said Tom Hanson of Green Bay, a retired Department of Natural Resources conservation warden. "I don't know, but I came here to speak strongly against it."

    Sen. Decker testified in favor of the bill, calling it "common sense."

    "They're just law-abiding people that want to have some fun," said Decker, referring to his hunting companions. "And some of our laws just make it more difficult."

    Sen. Decker also described the bill as a hunting issue. But with regards to uncased guns, most in attendance considered it more.

    "I'm here strictly from a public safety perspective," said Jim Arts, Green Bay chief of police. "This is not a good thing for us."

    Thirty people either spoke or registered in opposition to the bill; 14 were in favor.

    Opponents to the bill include the Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, the Wisconsin conservation warden union and numerous law enforcement units, including the Saukville Police Department and a coalition of northeastern Wisconsin police, tribal and sheriffs units.

    Supporters include the Hunters Rights Coalition, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

    Most supporters framed the issue as one of personal responsibility.

    "How did we get to the point where we don't trust our people anymore?" asked Waukesha County Sheriff Dan Trawicki.

    "This bill is not going to create a situation where people are going to violate. The people who are going to break the law are going to break the law, regardless."

    Trawicki also said he hopes this issue won't divide the hunting community.

    At a minimum, it has illuminated differences of opinion.

    "The last thing we need is for the public to perceive hunters as driving around with guns next to them, looking for things to shoot," said Ralph Fritsch, chairman of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation's Wildlife and Hunter Education Committee.

    Fritsch said his committee's 23 members were unanimous in opposition to the bill, as it would "reduce public safety, increase danger to wardens, increase violations, encourage unethical behavior and decrease hunter safety."

    Wisconsin has an enviable record of hunting safety.

    In 2009, Wisconsin had 1.1 accidents per 100,000 hunters, according to DNR figures, compared with a national average of 3.0 per 100,000.

    North and South Dakota, which allow uncased firearms in vehicles, have between 10 and 16 vehicle-related firearms incidents per 100,000 hunters. Wisconsin has less than 1 such incident per 100,000 hunters.

    "It's simple," said William Meloy, chief of the Saukville Police Department and long-time hunter safety instructor. "What we have works. Don't change it."

    Meloy said he also didn't support a law that might encourage the non-hunting public to view hunters as lazy, unsafe or unethical.

    Others criticized the bill's "end run" around the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

    Until perhaps the past month, the public had relatively little knowledge of the bill. The congress process at least allows far more consideration of such measures, said Matt McKenzie of Ashland, an opponent of the bill.

    The DNR listed its opposition on the grounds of public safety; law enforcement officer safety; hunter safety; that it would make it easier for those inclined to violate fair chase and public safety laws to steal opportunity from law abiding hunters; that it has the potential to adversely affect the image and future of hunting; that it adds complexity to hunting regulations; and that the group hunting proposal would be very difficult and time-intensive to enforce.

    DNR chief warden Randy Stark offered this summation of his department's opposition to the bill: "The department stands ready to work with the Conservation Congress, the law enforcement community and other interested stakeholders to identify areas of mutual agreement regarding potential changes deemed safe, appropriate and necessary."

    Rep. Hraychuck declined to reveal her plans for the bill after the hearing. If she declines to schedule an executive session of the committee soon, the bill will die when the 2009-'10 legislative session ends in early May.

    But the former Polk County sheriff did say this: “I think what we’ve heard today is most law enforcement has concerns about what this bill means to public safety and the safety of their officers.”

    And she said she would make a statement soon.

    ---- This Bill is already watered down. ha ha ha ha man we are going to have a hard time getting any thing moved forward! I heard them talking about this bill on Mark Belling, wow what a bunch of idiots! Looks like we'll just have to look towards the supreme court since it seems are representatives just ignore us.....

  2. #2
    Regular Member hunter9mm's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
    Greenfield, Wisconsin, USA

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    BJA wrote:

    ---- This Bill is already watered down. ha ha ha ha man we are going to have a hard time getting any thing moved forward! I heard them talking about this bill on Mark Belling, wow what a bunch of idiots! Looks like we'll just have to look towards the supreme court since it seems are "representatives" just ignore us.....

    Not that it will help right now, but it's "TIME FOR A CHANGE" November is coming!

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