Sunday, November 6, 2016

Semi-automatic Bill Advances Beyond Pennsyvania Lawmakers

Weeks before the opening of Pennsylvania’s statewide firearm deer season, and hours before the close of the state’s 2016 legislative session, a bill that would legalize the use of semi-automatic sporting arms for hunting has moved to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf.
The General Assembly has debated the issue since at least 2013. It was brought up again in 2015 by State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-Clearfield/Elk, a member of the House Game and Fisheries Committee and Pennsylvania Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus, with the support of a half dozen other Caucus members. On Oct. 26 the Senate version rocked the State Capitol building with a vote of 40-7 in favor, and the next day the House lined up 160-25 to approve HB 263.
Unlike rapid-fire machine guns, or automatic weapons, the shooter of a semi-automatic has to pull the trigger once for each individual shot. Unlike bolt-, lever- and pump-action guns, which require the shooter to manually move each cartridge into the chamber, semi’s do it with compressed air or gas. Hunters in 48 states, including Pennsylvania neighbors Ohio, New York, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia, legally use semi-automatic rifles.
The bill would amend the Title 34 Game and Wildlife Code, which specifically prohibits the state Game Commission from allowing air- or gas-powered rifles and handguns for hunting. The agency supports the bill, but if passed the legislation would not immediately and directly permit their use. It would give PGC the authority to regulate their use..
Semi-automatic shotguns are legal sporting arms in Pennsylvania, but they have to be plugged to a three-shell total in the chamber and magazine. Semi rifles and pistols are legal for target shooting and self-defense. 
“The inspiration for House Bill 263 came from an Elk County citizen who showed me how advancements in technology associated with these air-, chemical- and gas cylinder-powered rifles made them viable, humane options for use in hunting applications,” said Rep. Gabler, in a statement. “... Experience in other states has shown air- and gas-powered rifles to be especially popular among young hunters, women and new participants in the sport.”
Semi-automatic firearms have been a hot topic this election year. In February, Gov. Wolf joined the Washington, D.C.-based Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus, a bipartisan information exchange that promotes and advances hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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