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Legislature Approves Rifle Hunting Resolution, But Reserves the Right to Review in Two Years

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Legislature Approves Rifle Hunting Resolution, But Reserves the Right to Review in Two Years

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Culminating months of thoughtful discussion and weighing much community sentiment on the issue, the Tompkins County Legislature, by a split vote of 8-6, tonight decided to seek State authorization to allow rifle hunting for deer and bear in Tompkins County, but leaves open the opportunity to review the matter in two years. 

The resolution asks the County’s legislative delegation to support an amendment to State environmental conservation law to add Tompkins County to the 58 other counties in New York State in which such use of rifles for that type of hunting is authorized during the three-week season period.  Rifle hunting is already authorized in the county for other types of game.  Voting no were Legislators Henry Granison, Dan Klein, Amanda Champion, Anne Koreman, Shawna Black, and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne.

Several Legislators said the decision was a difficult one for them, since they could see arguments on both sides of the issue.  One of them, Legislator Michael Lane, said he heard from a lot of people who voiced varying opinions.  “I respect the arguments that the use of a rifle is not going to be more dangerous,” he said.  “I hear the argument that says responsible hunters are not going to do the wrong thing…I’m not worried about the responsible hunters; I’m worried about the irresponsible hunters,” he said.  On balance, though, Lane said he concluded that the County ought to try this and moved the amendment to give the Tompkins County Legislature the right to revisit the authorization after a two-year period.

Legislator Anna Kelles said the issue was one of the most difficult for her personally which she has encountered, and that she conducted considerable research on the matter.  Although Kelles remarked that she is anti-gun in general, she said she has concluded that allowing rifle hunting during that three-week period will not increase the number of guns in the county, that it would not increase hunting-related accidents, and that it relates to the practices of hunters not to mass shootings.

Legislator Black said she did not want to be a part of loosening the gun control in our county, and both Legislators Koreman and Champion said they would need a compelling reason to support such legislation, and that they could find no such reason to do that.  Legislator Deborah Dawson, however, said she doesn’t think the County needs a compelling reason to go along with the rest of the state.

The measure notes, in part, that the use of rifles, which usually entails the use of a scope, provides a clearer view and appears to be a safer hunting alternative; that the number of hunting related accidents in New York State does not appear to correlate with whether the hunter was using a rifle as opposed to another type of allowed weapon; and that counties within New York State that have changed their rules to allow deer and bear rifle hunting have experienced no corresponding increase in hunting related accidents.  Control of the county’s large deer population provides a useful public service, the resolution states.

Public Safety Committee Chair Rich John said the Legislature was fortunate to have a great deal of public participation on the issue, both pro and con, with a fair amount of education taking place.  A similar authorization resolution had been considered in 2013, but at that time failed to win support.