Tuesday, November 22, 2016

PA: Governor Wolf Signs Hunting Reform for Semi-Autos, Air Guns

A number of states have unusual rules about what may be used for hunting and what may not. Pennsylvania had a law that forbid hunting with semi-automatic rifles and pistols.  They did not forbid hunting with semi-auto shotguns.  The hunter shown in the image from the Game Commission web site is using a semi-auto shotgun, probably to hunt deer, as she is wearing hunter orange and the shotgun has sights on it. This inconsistency helped in moving the reform forward.

Laws are harder to reform than rules promulgated in hunting regulations.  The Pennsylvania government changed this law to allow increasingly popular semi-auto rifles to be used for hunting. The law also removes the ban on using air guns for hunting. From abc27.com:
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Gov. Tom Wolf has signed legislation that removes a ban on hunting with semi-automatic rifles.

Act 168 of 2016, formerly House Bill 263, also removes the ban on air- and gas-powered rifles.
Here is the wording of the new law, as shown in the HB 263.  From state.pa.us:  
§ 2308. Unlawful devices and methods.

(a) General rule.--Except as otherwise provided in this title, it is unlawful for any person to hunt or aid, abet, assist or conspire to hunt any game or wildlife through the use of:

* * *
(2) A semiautomatic rifle or pistol, except as set forth in subsection (b.1).

* * *

[(5) Any device operated by air, chemical or gas cylinder by which a projectile of any size or kind can be discharged or propelled.]

* * *

(b.1) Additional exception.--A semiautomatic rifle may be used to hunt game in accordance with regulations promulgated by the commission.
Note that the devices will be subject to rules created by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It is too late in the year for a change this hunting season. I expect the Game Commission will have a rule change for next year.

They have many states to chose from if they wish to study examples that have worked.  In my experience, most other states allow hunting with semi-auto rifles and air guns.  Guns used for hunting tend to follow the pattern used in the military. People who served become familiar with the firearm they used, and are willing to switch to the "new fangled" device.  The previous generation tends to keep what they are familiar with. 

An exception is full auto firearms. Most states have bans on hunting with machine guns. Full auto firearms are highly regulated. Most sport hunters consider them an unsporting advantage.

Some hunting has been done with them.  I have read that Saddam Hussein hunted rare antelope with machine guns from helicopters.  Full auto firearms have been used for pest control. I recall an article where an intrepid rancher in Alaska fitted a BAR to a Cessna to rid his ranch of troublesome bears. Not sporting; but effective.

Many poachers in Africa use AK 47 rifles because that is what they have. Full auto is seldom used because ammunition can be difficult to come by.

Some states regulate magazine capacity.  Arizona removed its magazine capacity restriction in 2012.

The Pennsylvania government is merely catching up with the culture with this reform.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

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