TRENTON – The Senate Environment Committee released a bill today that allows youths to experience hunting without first going through a safety course.
S1083/A1544, co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, and Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, was released 3-2.
Sens. Smith, Jennifer Beck and Jim Whelan supported it, while Sens. Christopher Bateman and Linda Greenstein opposed it.
This bill would establish several apprentice licenses for firearm and bow and arrow hunting. Under current law, hunting licenses are issued in several forms, each of which requires an applicant who has not previously held a license to first complete a course in gun or bow and arrow safety.
This bill would establish, for each of these regular licenses, a corresponding apprentice license for which an applicant would not be required to complete a safety course.
Smith said this is a chance to allow those aged 10 to 16 exposure to hunting under licensed-adult supervision to see if they like hunting without having to go through the course first.
There was some opposition from witnesses opposed to hunting in general.
And Sen. Christopher Bateman, (R-16), Somerville, raised objections. “I’m all for being outdoors, especially with the family, but we’re not talking about taking a hike in the woods, we’re talking about a 10-year-old with a lethal weapon,” he said.
A fatality could occur in a split second, he said.
Sen. Linda Greenstein, (D-14), Monroe echoed those concerns.
But Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-11), Red Bank, said she has faith in the hunting community to exercise extreme caution, and pointed out that the bill’s apprentice license can only be issued twice.
And Smith said that 32 states have enacted similar programs.