In a little more than five weeks, Kansans will head to the polls to cast their votes for a wide variety of offices. There is a new president to elect, every seat in the Kansas Legislature is on the ballot, retention votes for judges and a smattering of local county officials.
Also at the bottom of the Nov. 8 ballot will be a constitutional amendment seeking to add a new right for Kansans: To hunt, fish and trap wildlife.
The proposed No. 21 of the Kansas Bill of Rights states: “The people have the right to hunt, fish and trap, including by the use of traditional methods, subject to reasonable laws and regulations that promote wildlife conservation and management and that preserve the future of hunting and fishing. Public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
“This section shall not be construed to modify any provision of law relating to trespass, property rights or water resources.’’
In other words, all current laws regarding hunting, fishing, trapping, the discharge of firearms, specific seasons and limits, trespassing, eminent domain, private property and the like would remain the same if the amendment passes.
And, according to an explanatory statement in the bill’s language, all current laws regarding hunting, fishing, trapping, the discharge of firearms, specific seasons and limits, trespassing, eminent domain, private property rights and the like would remain the same if the amendment doesn’t pass.
Inquiring minds might be wondering: What is the point of amending the Kansas Constitution if nothing really happens? While a great question, we can’t divine much of an answer.
Even a press release this week from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism didn’t shed any new light on the subject. It did remind us the proposed amendment was introduced into the 2015 legislative session as House Concurrent Resolution 5008 by former Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, and Rep. Adam Lusker, D-Frontenac, but no action was taken. It was carried over to the past session and passed both chambers by wide margins.
All that’s left is for a simple majority of Kansas voters to support the amendment and we’ll add one more specific liberty to the Bill of Rights. The right to hunt, fish and trap will be in the same grouping of high-order entitlements such as equality, free speech, prohibition of slavery, speedy trials and public assemblies.
Why lawmakers want to trivialize the state’s most important document is beyond us. As voting yes or no doesn’t alter one’s ability to hunt, fish or trap, we recommend voting no merely as protest.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry