TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — Tompkins County legislators approved a resolution Tuesday that will allow people to hunt bear and deer in Tompkins County with rifles.
The long-debated resolution passed Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday with an 8-6 vote and an amendment that gives Legislature the right to reconsider the resolution in two years. Before voting, legislators weighed issues like public safety and whether the resolution would add more guns to the county.
Tompkins County is one of the few counties in Upstate New York that does not allow big game hunting with rifles but allows it with bows, crossbows, shotguns, muzzleloaders and handguns. It’s important to note that the resolution does not impact this year’s hunting season, as the change needs state approvals.
A similar resolution was considered in 2013 but did not pass. Several legislators who spoke while the resolution was being considered Tuesday were torn on the issue. Legislator Anna Kelles said while she is anti-gun in general, she could not find a reason to oppose the resolution. She said she spoke to about 15 hunters, many who said using a rifle is more accurate than other weapons already allowed because rifles are most often used with scopes.
The resolution passed Tuesday notes because using rifles usually entails using a scope, “providing a clearer view of the target and the surroundings behind the target, rifles appear to be a safe alternative, with a greater likelihood of killing the deer or bear rather than injuring it.” It also said a review of hunting-related accidents in New York does not appear to correlate with a hunter using a rifle as opposed to any other allowed weapon.
The legislators who voted against the resolution include Shawna Black, Anne Koreman, Amanda Champion, Henry Granison, Dan Klein and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne.
“In this day and age, we need tighter gun control,” Black said. “I don’t want to be part of loosening local gun control laws in our community.”
Koreman and Champion cited similar reasons. Champion said though she acknowledges that deer overpopulation is a problem, hunters really only skim the surface of it.
Due to the high deer population in Tompkins County, the Department of Environmental Conservation established a special Deer Management Focus Area that covers 60,000 acres around the City of Ithaca. It allows hunters to take up to two deer per day during regular seasons and established a special hunting season in January.
According to a statement from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, for Tompkins County’s resolution to be enacted, Environmental Conservation Law will have to be amended.
“For this to occur, the New York State Legislature would need to propose an amendment to the existing law to allow rifles to be used for hunting big game in Tompkins County. If the bill were to pass both houses and be signed by the Governor, then rifles could be allowed during the regular big game season and during the Deer Management Focus Area program in January,” the NYSDEC said in an emailed statement.
Legislator Mike Sigler supported the resolution and said most of the state has used rifles for big game for a long time. “Frankly, if it was up to me, I would allow hunters to take more than they are allowed to right now. If this can help hunters hunt and take more deer, I guess I don’t have a real issue.”
Legislator Mike Lane, who said he was not in favor of the resolution when it came up a few years ago, added an amendment so that legislators can “revisit the authorization after a two-year trial period.”
Early bowhunting season began Tuesday, Oct. 1. Regular hunting season in the Southern Zone of New York takes place from Nov. 16 to Dec. 8. For more information about hunting in New York, visit the DEC’s website.
Read the draft resolution below (this will be updated with the amended resolution when available)