McCain: Prop. 109 would check radical groups, help wildlife
A ballot proposition that would establish a constitutional right to hunt and fish in Arizona would prevent radical groups from criminalizing the sports and harming wildlife in the process, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday.
"Hunters are true conservationists and stewards of wildlands," said McCain, who is seeking re-election Nov. 2. "Protecting the right of hunters in Arizona means a highly effective way to preserve wildlife populations and land management."
McCain joined the National Rifle Association at a news conference promoting Proposition 109, which supporters tout as guaranteeing the right of Arizonans to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife lawfully.
The measure would prohibit any law or rule that unreasonably restricts hunting or fishing using traditional means and would give the Legislature sole authority to regulate those activities.
Sandy Froman, the NRA's past president, said Arizonans need Proposition 109 to defend the rights of sportsmen and sportswomen from extremist groups pushing an anti-hunting agenda around the country.
"Prop 109′s opponents, led by the anti-hunting Humane Society of the United States, are trying to mislead Arizona voters by throwing around terms such as – quote – power grab by the Legislature," Froman said. "They've chosen this line of attack not because it's in any way true but in an attempt to appeal to people's current dissatisfaction with government."
Under the measure, the Legislature could continue delegating rule-making authority to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. While it would prohibit citizen initiatives seeking to change statues on hunting and fishing, groups could still put forward initiatives seeking to amend the constitution on those activities.
Initiatives amending the constitution require signatures of 15 percent of registered voters, as opposed to 10 percent for initiatives seeking to amend statutes.
Ten states have already adopted NRA-backed proposals similar to Proposition 109, and McCain said he expects three more states to pass them on Nov. 2.
Kari Neinstedt, The Humane Society of the United States' Arizona director, said her organization has never advocated eliminating hunting and fishing. She said the group didn't oppose similar measures in other states.
"The reason we're coming out against this proposition is that it takes rights away from Arizona voters," Neinstedt said in telephone interview. "The intent of this measure is to prevent voters from having input. The only way the voters could have input on wildlife management would be another constitutional amendment."
Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, said Proposition 109 is in fact a power grab by the Legislature.
"If they nick away at this right, and we hope they do not, what's next?" she said. "What area will be next on the list where you can't do a statutory initiative?"