Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills that would lift the state’s longstanding ban on semiautomatic rifles for hunting.
According to Representative Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny), who introduced HB 366, Pennsylvania is just one of two states that have a total ban on semiautomatic rifles for hunting, whereas even states historically tough on guns like California and New York eased their restrictions long ago. Saccone also introduced similar legislation in 2014 but was unable to win majority support.
“Even in very liberal states like Hawaii, New York and Illinois, citizens are permitted to use semiautomatic rifles when hunting. There’s nothing frightening or extreme about this proposal,” Saccone said in a previous press release. “Pennsylvania is one of America’s leading states for hunting, with more than 1.4 million acres designated as state game lands. There is no reason why our hunters shouldn’t have the same rights as those in almost every other state.”
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pennsylvania Game Commission indicated that it would move to legalize semiautomatic firearms if the bills are passed, but that hunters should expect baby steps initially. Matt Hough, the Game Commission director, said that hunters may only be limited to small game like coyotes or foxes at first while the commission considers rules for larger game. Moreover, Saccone’s bill would restrict hunters to centerfire rifles with a five-round capacity limit, or .22-caliber rifles with similar restrictions.
While hunters have been very supportive of the measures, not everyone else is. Some landowners have threatened to close off their lands if either bill is passed and the Game Commission itself is worried about a potential change in public perception of hunters. Hough told the Associated Press that the game commissioners are “very traditional individuals and hunting in Pennsylvania is a very traditional sport.”
Supporters of the bill argue that other states without such a ban seem to be doing just fine.
“The advantage of a semiautomatic rifle to a hunter is that it becomes unnecessary to stop and reload if one fires and misses, allowing for a greater chance of harvesting game,” Saccone said.
Using the same logic, hunters say this will make for more ethical kills as well. Saccone’s bill is currently waiting for a committee vote after the state budget is decided.
Image courtesy Hillebrand Steve/US Fish and Wildlife Service