Massachusetts Changing Hunting License Purchase Requirement

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On July 6, Governor Mitt Romney signed legislation that changes hunting license purchase requirements by requiring all new hunters to successfully pass a basic hunter education course, a measure that has the strong support of sportsmen and gun owners. "It's important that hunters understand the basic skills and responsibilities that will help them to enjoy the sport safely, and to foster an appreciation of hunting for new generations of young people," said Governor Mitt Romney.

Since 1998, most people with Massachusetts gun licenses - a License to Carry Firearms or a Firearm Identification card - have automatically qualified to purchase hunting licenses. With the bill's signing, the gun license qualification has been eliminated. Massachusetts comes into line with the other 49 states requiring all new hunters take a basic hunter education course in order to purchase a hunting or sporting license. The new law provides an exception for adults who held any hunting or sporting licenses prior to January 1, 2007. Further information about the hunting license purchase requirements will be posted in the next few days at www.mass.gov.masswildlife.

The Hunter Education program is administered by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) and the courses are taught by certified volunteer instructors. The Program's mission is to protect the lives and safety of the public, promote the wise management and ethical use of wildlife resource, and encourage a greater appreciation of the environment through education. Massachusetts offered its first hunter safety course in 1954 and to date has graduated more than 160,000 students. Courses are free and a schedule is posted in the Education area of the MassWildlife website at www.mass.gov/masswildlife.

"The sportsmen in our state have a strong legacy of outdoor safety and etiquette in our communities," said Senator Robert A. Antonioni (D-Leominster), chief sponsor of the legislation. "This bill ensures that this legacy will continue for the many aspiring sportsmen and women in our state. It puts the Commonwealth on par with the rest of the country." The legislation was originally proposed by the Worcester County League of Sportsmen, and it was supported by the Gun Owner's Action League (GOAL). "This legislation recognizes the skill and safety of those previously licensed hunters and goes forward to allow new hunters to gain valuable knowledge in safe hunting procedures and practices," said Representative George N. Peterson Jr. (R-Grafton).

"We are pleased with the passage of yet another correction of Chapter 180 of the Acts of 1998, which created a confusing standard for acquiring a hunting or sporting license," said James Wallace, GOAL's executive director. "Prior to the passage of this law some eight years ago, hunter education was mandatory for all first time hunters, with no exceptions. While GOAL does not normally support mandatory training, it is our belief that every first time hunter should be exposed to the ethics, safety aspects and laws in Massachusetts regarding hunting before taking to the field for the first time."