Pennsylvania might just be the last U.S. state to allow auto loading rifles to be used during hunting season, if it is given final approval in March by the eight-member Board of Game Commissioners. On Tuesday, conservation officials in Harrisburg voted unanimously to tentatively end the ban on the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting.
Commissioner James Daley said the public offered no real opposition to the use of semi-auto rifles for small game and furbearers but they were about 50/50 on using them for big game, like deer and elk. If this measure is passed, the use of semi-auto rifles for both small and large game would be allowed. This would apply to any species that has a season but the ammunition capacity of the rifle could not exceed six (5+1) rounds. Full-metal-jacketed ammunition would not be allowed for deer, bear and elk hunting.
The Game Commission reviewed and took careful consideration before they voted and assessed the safety of other states that have passed similar measures. They found that the use of these firearms for hunting purposes was considered to be safe. Commissioner Timothy Layton said,
“There have been concerns about safety issues with semi-automatic weapons for big game. We found no correlation between the way a weapon is loaded and hunting accidents,” Commissioner Timothy Layton said.
Unfortunately, everyone does not have the same beliefs, which is evident from the PGC’s social media page, which was blasted with hundreds of negative posts after the meeting was held. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation said, “We welcome this change.”
The board’s next quarterly meeting is scheduled to be held March 27 and 28, where the new rules will be voted on a final time.