Editorial: Don’t amend

A proposed change to the Kansas Constitution is unnecessary and merely political in nature.

The Constitution of the state of Kansas should only be amended when absolutely necessary to protect the rights and freedoms of its residents.

Kansas Amendment 1 on the November election ballot, which would insert into the state Constitution the right of the public to hunt, fish and trap wildlife, doesn’t rise to that occasion and should be defeated.

Amendment 1 asks voters to add a Section 21 to the Kansas Bill of Rights stating:

“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.”

On the surface, the amendment seems innocuous enough. The state Senate voted unanimously to put the amendment on the ballot, and in the House, just seven Democrats voted against it. But while the amendment makes for easy politics, it is unnecessary policy.

There is no imminent threat to hunting and fishing in the state that calls for amending the state’s constitution. Rather, the amendment is political folly advocated by the National Rifle Association. Note that one of the amendment’s authors is former state Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady of Hays, who resigned his seat in the House last year to accept a position as an NRA lobbyist.

The NRA and amendment advocates would have residents believe that while Kansas’ rich outdoors tradition isn’t under attack now, it could be in the future from organizations like the Audubon Society or PETA. Even assuming such future threats are real, it’s a stretch to think Amendment 1 would offer any sort of new protection for Kansas hunters beyond what’s already in Section 4 of the Kansas Bill of Rights. That section, which deals with Kansans’ right to bear arms, already states, “A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, for lawful hunting and recreational use, and for any other lawful purpose…”

The laws of Kansas are wholly adequate to govern hunting and fishing in Kansas. A constitutional amendment is no more needed to protect hunters and anglers than it is to protect golfers, stamp collectors, vintage car enthusiasts, birdwatchers or any of hundreds of other of the state’s hobbyists.

Hunting and fishing is important to Kansas and should be encouraged. So should voting “no” on Amendment 1 on Nov. 8.