Some state lawmakers want to make the ability to hunt and fish a constitutional right in hopes of keeping their colleagues - and voters - from deciding that people shouldn't be killing certain animals.
A measure approved on a 6-3 margin Wednesday by the House Committee on Natural Resources and Public Safety would raise hunting from a privilege to a right. That measure, which now goes to the full House, would require voter approval in November.
Wednesday's vote came over the objection of the Game and Fish Commission, the state board that now regulates the sport. Commissioner Jennifer Martin said her agency wants hunting and fishing protected.
But she said making both sports a constitutionally protected right could preclude her agency from adopting rules and regulations, including specifying when certain game can be taken to placing limits on how many animals any hunter can kill.
But Todd Rathner, a board member of the National Rifle Association, said his organization does not believe a constitutional amendment will undermine the commission.
What it would do, he said, is throw roadblocks in the path of those who would limit what hunters now can do.
Making hunting a constitutional right, Rathner said, would keep future Arizona legislators from passing any laws imposing new limits.
It would not ban voter initiatives. But a statutory change currently requires 153,365 valid signatures; it takes 230,047 names on petitions to alter a constitutional provision.
The constitutional protection in HCR 2037 would be subject "only to reasonable regulations and restrictions specifically prescribed by the Legislature."
Sandy Bahr, lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said that removes the ability of Game and Fish Commission members to enact rules based on what they believe is the proper amount of hunting and fishing justified each season and instead gives it to lawmakers.