You may want to add some space to your gun cabinet.
A couple of new kinds of firearms may become legal for hunting in Pennsylvania, soon, if not immediately.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 263, which would legalize air rifles for hunting. Right now, Pennsylvania is one of just two states – New Hampshire is the other – that prohibit that.
Under terms of the bill, the Pennsylvania Game Commission would decide which species and seasons would be open to those using the guns.
The bill must still pass the Senate – it’s been referred to the game and fisheries committee – before going to the Governor for his signature. Only then will it be law. But Josh Zimmerman, the Game Commission’s legislative liaison, said he would “expect to see” it get serious discussion soon.
Trickier to predict is what might happen with three bills that would legalize semiautomatic rifles for hunting.
Pennsylvania is, with Delaware, just one of two states in the country to completely prohibit their use for hunting. Lawmakers have introduced three bills that would, in one way or another, change that.
The Game Commission has historically opposed that idea. But the winds are changing.
At their recent work group meeting, commissioners agreed that – like it or not – one of the bills, or some compromise version, may become law sooner rather than later, and they need to get involved in picking something “palatable” now.
“We need to find which piece of legislation we can live with and get on board with it,” said commissioner Tim Layton of Windber.
That’s likely Senate Bill 737, they agreed. Sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson of Butler County, it would legalize semiautos for hunting groundhogs and coyotes, and allow the commission to regulate things like caliber and magazine capacity.
Not all board members like want even that. Commissionere Ron Weaner of Adams County went so far as to compare the push to legalize semiautos to the push a few years ago to legalize crossbows. In both cases, it was manufacturers leading the charge, he said.
“They want Pennsylvania, they want the market that’s here,” Weaner said.
But commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said hunters want the guns, too. More and more are buying and shooting semiautos, he said.
“The future is changing, and we’ve got to get where the future is going to be,” Hoover said.
Commission executive director Matt Hough said the agency prefers Hutchinson’s bill to the others because it allows things to “start small.”
So look for the commission to talk to lawmakers and say that, if a semiauto bill is going to come to pass, they’d like it to be conservative.