Pritch Morgan Petitions Get Warm Reception

Strong legislative action for law to protect hunters already being considered.

Steve | January 19, 1989

Monday a week ago found me wandering the halls of the state capitol. Most folks don’t carry a suitcase to the state capitol, so the sight of me and my suitcase with a sign on it raised a few eyebrows.

Given the fact that the first day of any legislative session is usually a confused goat roping anyway, we were amazingly well received.

For those of you who may have been out of the state for a while or who don’t hunt, GON ran an editorial and a petition in late November. In that petition, I stated that I believe there was a shortcoming in the law and the the shortcoming should be corrected.

Gov. Joe Frank Harris was receptive and invited us back if we needed help.

The shortcoming is that if someone shoots another having “mistaken” the other person for game, then the shooter can go back in the woods the next day and continue hunting. That is how Georgia law is presently constituted. I think that is wrong.

In the petition, I invited other sportsmen to similarly express their complaint, and said that if they did, I would present our concerns to our lawmakers.

The response was terrific, and last Monday, I presented your petitions to the governor, the Lt. governor, the speaker of the House, and then I left the petitions with Rep. Howard Rainey, of Cordele. Mr. Rainey is the chairman of the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee.

They were all impressed by the response and spoke favorably that something could likely be accomplished this session. I am very encouraged at this point. Part of the reason I feel positive that something will get done is because the legislature in general, and Mr. Rainey in particular, had already begun work on this problem before I got there.

Lt. Gov. Zell Miller agreed that the time for action had come.

Early last December, Mr. Rainey asked DNR to prepare draft legislation that would effectively address the problems and concerns we and other hunters were voicing. As its model, the department’s lawyers used the law recently passed in South Carolina.

I have had an opportunity to read the law drafted by the DNR lawyers. If the legislature can get it passed, we will have hit a good lick.

Clearly, laws don’t prevent tragedies or crimes. This one won’t either. However, when passed, it will do three things. First, it will prevent irresponsible gun handlers from going back in the woods, at least for some period of time. Second, it will send a clear message to all hunters, poachers and the public at large that sportsmen in this state will not tolerate anything less than safe conduct in the hunting woods. Finally, it will mean that perhaps Pritch Morgan’s death was not in vain.

When we went to the capitol last Monday, we had 2,941 petitions. Since last Monday, petitions have continued to stream in, and the total now exceeds 3,500.

During our talk with Mr. Rainey, I was very pleased to hear what he had to say about this petition.

Representative Howard Rainey has requested draft legislation from DNR.

“This is strong stuff,” he said. “With this, I can stand on the floor of the House and show these legislators that something needs to be done.”

How many years has Georgia law had this shortcoming? Forever I guess. Why is it being looked into now? I believe it is largely because we, as a group, stood up and said something was wrong.

This is the first time I have ever been involved with anything like this. I was impressed with the strong response from our readers. I was impressed with the easy and direct access we have had to our legislators.

I was impressed with the power of just one suitcase full of signatures.

This legislation is not a done deal yet, but I am very optimistic.

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