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Pennsylvania Game Commission director backs use of semi-automatic rifles by hunters

The head of the Pennsylvania Game Commission said the agency would allow hunters to use semi-automatic rifles on a limited basis if legislators give the OK.

On Monday, Matt Hough, director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, told lawmakers the commission would probably allow hunters to use semi-automatic rifles to kill coyotes or foxes on a limited basis if the Legislature ends the state’s ban on using the weapons for hunting.

Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Fayette/Westmoreland, said the bill (HB366) was referred to the Game and Fisheries Committee as an act amending Title 34 section 2308 Unlawful Devices and Methods to allow hunting with semi-automatic rifles in Pennsylvania.

Warner said the bill will open up the option for hunters to use semi-automatic rifles and will let the Game Commission decide what species of game on which hunters can use the semi-automatic rifles.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny/Washington.

“More specifically, it would allow hunting with semi-automatic center fire rifles limited to a five-shell capacity and .22 caliber semi-automatic rim fire rifles with a built-in capacity limit,” said Saccone in the memorandum attached to the bill. “Currently, we are one of two states forbidding such hunting. Even Hawaii, California and New York allow hunting with semi-automatic rifles.”

Saccone pointed out that Pennsylvania hunters have proved for decades that they are trustworthy, responsible and ethical stewards of Pennsylvania’s hunting/sporting heritage.

Warner, who’s a member of the House Game & Fisheries and Gaming Oversight committees, said he hasn’t received a lot of feedback on the subject but said if the Game Commission sticks to the limited usage on certain species, he would support it.

Hough told lawmakers not to expect any immediate expansion of the right of using semi-automatic rifles to the hunting of deer, bear and other game.

Warner said if the game commission changes its stance on the usage of the semi-automatic rifles for hunting, then he would like to get feedback from local hunting clubs before voting on the bill’s final passage.

“I would like their opinion on that,” Warner said, adding that he feels confident the bill would make it through committee and the House, but is not sure what will happen when it reaches the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.

Warner said he hasn’t seen the bill on any schedule, but said it might be up for a committee meeting vote after the state budget is done.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or [email protected].


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