Semi-auto rifles almost a non-issue

Numerous serious deer hunters in Warren County, and many more hunters who have known about it for years, are not concerned much about the proposal to allow semi-automatic rifles for big game hunting in Pennsylvania. Not many anyway.

Those hunters who have hunted New York for big game have plenty of experience with semi-automatic shotguns used for deer hunting and bear hunting. In fact, anyone who has hunted in any other state has experience where semi-auto rifles are allowed because Pennsylvania is the only state where semi-auto rifles are not allowed.

I will guess that the only reason this has not been a major issue in the past is because very few Pennsylvania hunters care either way.

Certainly there are non-hunters who oppose the use of semi-auto rifles for hunting, largely the same people who oppose the use of any firearms, some people who do not understand the difference between semi-automatic rifles and fully automatic rifles. No hunters in this country are hunting with automatic rifles, maybe not anywhere else either.

Talk of bullets being sprayed all over the woods is the nonsense of alarmists. Hunters are trained to make one well aimed shot at deer or bear. Since mandatory hunter education began, every hunter is exposed to the one well placed shot line of thinking.

The real heart of the problem of confusion between semi-auto and auto started when the anti-gun element and the press started using the term ‘assault rifles’ for semi-auto hunting rifles. If anyone is in doubt of the difference, ask any of millions of men and women who have served in the military. They can plainly tell you the difference between sport hunting and assaulting a fortified position.

Any confusion in this matter, hunting or assaulting, semi-auto hunting rifle or assault rifle, virtually disappears outside of city limits. And outside of hunter education classes.

Credit mandatory hunter education with increasing hunting safety. Hunting-related shooting incidents have been on a steep decline since hunter education began. Not just in Pennsylvania. The New York Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that in 2016 a record was established for the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidences.

Hunters are not excited either way over the issue of hunting with semi-auto rifles because allowing semi-auto rifles will barely be noticed.

There will be no rush of Pennsylvania hunters buying semi-auto rifles. A few will, no more. During my experience through 55 years of hunting in roughly 20 different states and Canadian provinces, even where semi-auto rifles are allowed, only a small minority of big game hunters use them.

Allowing semi-auto rifles for hunting will please those shooting enthusiasts who are into the current ‘tactical’ shooting gear fad. These are the folks who like to shoot semi-auto versions of rifles that resemble military rifles. Some of the more popular semi-auto rifles are essentially semi-auto versions of the M-16 rifle. This has been good for the sporting goods industry because folks who use the tactical rifles also tend to use military-style camouflage, special scopes, special scope mounts, special slings and other specialized tactical equipment.

To anyone who insists that semi-auto hunting rifles are not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, I insist this is precisely what they had in mind, a populace armed with firearms modern to the moment. A Militia can not be well armed in the 21st Century with muzzleloading rifles. Realistically, automatic rifles should be in public hands. But I absolutely am not seriously suggesting it.

The most significant result if the semi-auto proposal becomes law will be increased tourism money. Hunters from other states, especially neighboring states, can come to Pennsylvania to hunt without the need of buying a special rifle for hunting just this one state. Warren County should be one of the major beneficiaries of this added tourism money.

Warren County residents have come a long way from the 1970s when most folks felt tourism was not significant here. With the decline in industry here ale just about everywhere else, the importance of tourism is evident.