TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee released a bill today that would enable young people to gain exposure to hunting and get licenses to use firearms and bows and arrows, provided they are accompanied by an adult.
The bill, S2913, sponsored by committee chairman Bob Smith, would issue a youth hunting license to young people between the ages 11 and 15 years old, provided they have completed a course in firearms or bow and arrow safety. People under the age of 14 must be accompanied by a 21-year-old who also holds a hunting license.
The legislation also enables the division to issue an “apprentice youth firearm hunting license” to people in that age group who have not completed a course in gun safety. Those individuals would be able to hunt only two times during the four-year period.
The idea of not requiring participants to take a safety course concerned one lawmaker.
Sen. Kip Bateman, (R-16), of Somerville, questioned why they would pass legislation that would allow individuals to not take the course.
“You should take the necessary safety courses,” he said.
Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-12), of Red Bank, initially had that same concern. However, she later came to the conclusion that the bill is primarily intended to expose young people to the sport.
“I see where they are going with it,” she said, adding that if one takes it up as a regular hobby, he or she would be required to take up the safety courses.
One resident who testified, Barbara Sachau of Flemington, vehemently opposed the bill, saying it’s mostly intended “to enrich the coffers” of the Fish and Game Council, which would issue the permits.
“The state is so desperate for money that they are turning kids into killing instruments,” she said. “This committee should be working for the good of all people.”
Sen. Bob Gordon, (D-38), of Fair Lawn, also said he had some concerns. He later abstained from voting.