Friday is the deadline for lawmakers to file legislation in Virginia, which means we have three more days for legislators to introduce even more bills attacking the right to keep and bear arms, as well as the longstanding traditions of rural Virginians.
Some of the latest bills to be introduced do exactly that. HB 960, for instance, would impose a new tax on firearms and ammunition in the state, with the proceeds going to hire school counselors and psychologists. I’m certainly not opposed to more mental health counselors in our schools, but this seems like something that the entire community should be paying for, not just gun owners.
Besides, since the goal of gun control advocates like Del. Mark Levine is to reduce the number of legal gun owners, it seems odd that he would try to raise the funds for additional counselors by tapping into what he hopes will be a declining revenue stream. My suspicion is that this has less to do with raising money for school counselors and more to do with making it more expensive to exercise a constitutional right.
Another bill that’s sure to cause controversy in rural Virginia is SB 886, which would put so many restrictions on hunting with dogs that it would be be impossible to comply. From the bill’s summary:
Prohibits a dog owner from allowing his dog to run at large on the property of another after the landowner has given notice to the dog owner to keep dogs off the property. The bill provides for a civil penalty of $100 per dog enforced by animal control, conservation police, and other law-enforcement officers and a civil penalty of $250 per occurrence for a second or subsequent occurrence. The bill contains an exception to the penalty if the dog’s owner or custodian releases the dog on property measuring 500 acres or more that is owned or leased by him or on which he has written permission to hunt.
The bill provides that the release of a hunting dog on a public road or on either side of such road within 100 feet of the centerline is a Class 4 misdemeanor. The bill also requires a hunter of game other than fox or raccoon, when going on prohibited lands to retrieve his dog, to obtain the permission of the owner or occupant of the property before entering such prohibited lands. A violation of such is a Class 4 misdemeanor.
Finally, the bill makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to discharge a firearm or bow within 75 feet of either side of the centerline of a road. Current law prohibits such discharge in or across any road, within the right-of-way thereof, or in a street of any city or town. The bill includes technical changes.
There are lots of guys who hunt with dogs where I live, and if you’re one of them, it’s absolutely a way of life. I’m not, so it’s something I tolerate, even when their hounds come baying across my fields and get distracted by my goats or chase after my chickens. My attitude is I chose to move here, and this has been a way of life far longer than I’ve owned my farm. I have my no trespassing signs, but every now and then I do end up going out and talking to a hunter parked on my driveway or at the edge of my property.
Other rural residents are not as tolerant. They can’t stand the dogs running through their woods and pastures, and they get concerned when they drive by hunters on the side of the road who are waiting for their dogs to drive a deer out into the open shoulder where they can take a shot.
It’s a divisive issue in rural Virginia, and the fact that northern Virginia Democrat Dave Marsden introduced the bill instead of a more rural representative will only deepen the divide. Back in 2017, a similar measure offered by the Republican Speaker of the House was narrowly defeated in a 48-47 vote. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say this year the proposal is likely to pass, despite the bill’s inability to address several issues, including what happens to the thousands of hunting dogs in the state if you can no longer hunt with dogs?
We may very well see more bills like this dropping in the next couple of days as the filing deadline approaches. In the meantime, if you’re a Virginia gun owner make sure you’re keeping up the contact with your state senator and delegate and urging them to oppose Ralph Northam’s agenda targeting the state’s legal gun owners.