Rifle use poised to expand

Albany ­— Rifle use for big game hunting is poised to expand again in New York state this fall, pending Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature on legislation that would allow rifles in Seneca, Genesee and Schenectady counties.

In addition, rifle use will be made permanent in Ontario and Wayne counties, where the implements had been allowed on a two-year trial basis.

A flurry of Assembly and Senate action on several pieces of legislation came in the final days of an Albany session generally regarded as unproductive.

Cuomo’s anticipated signature on the bills – he’s signed several such measures in recent years – won’t likely come before the 2015-16 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide goes to press this month. But that hasn’t been a problem in the past, since allowing rifles is a less restrictive regulation and doesn’t lead to any enforcement headaches for environmental conservation officers.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R,C-Canandaigua) sponsored the Ontario County rifle use legislation, and jointly sponsored the Seneca County bill along with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning).

“Hunters have experienced safe and successful big-game seasons since rifle hunting was allowed in Ontario County two years ago,” Kolb said in a prepared statement. “Making permanent the ability to use rifles was a priority for Ontario County and is welcome news for New York’s sporting community.”

Ontario County lawmakers passed a resolution earlier this year to formally request the permanent use of rifles for big-game season, as did the Seneca County Board of Supervisors.

Palmesano said allowing rifles in Seneca County “will provide a greater hunting experience.”

State Sen. Michael Nozzolio (R,C,IP-Seneca Falls was the sponsor of the Seneca County rifle bill in that house.

Kolb and Nozzolio also teamed up to sponsor the Ontario County rifle use legislation in their respective houses.

The Genesee County rifle bill (A4367A) was sponsored by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia), with several co-sponsors. The Senate version (S1292A) was sponsored by Sen.  Michael Ranzenhofer (R,C,IP-Amherst).

Genesee County legislators had pushed for the legislation.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D-Rotterdam) sponsored the Schenectady County rifle legislation (A7987A), while the Senate version was sponsored by (5316A) was sponsored by Sen. George Amedore.

Santabarbara, in a memo attached to his bill, noted that “Advances in shooting technology with regard to shotguns, including the use of rifled shotgun barrels and specialized ammunition, have given shotguns ballistic characteristics similar to that of rifles.”

The Wayne County rifle bill was sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R,C-Macedon), with the Senate version (S5181) introduced by Nozzolio.

Three rifle bills died natural deaths in the Legislature when they were introduced in only one house:

• Assemblyman Bill Nojay R-Pittsford) introduced A3797, which would have legalized rifles in Livingston County. But no Senate version of the bill surfaced and his bill never left the Assembly’s environmental conservation committee.

• Assemblyman Karl Brabanec (R,C,I-Deer Park) introduced legislation that would have legalized rifles for big game hunting in Rockland County. But no Senate version was introduced.

• Sen. Tom Libous (R,C,I-Binghamton) introduced a bill that would have expanded rifle use to the remainder of Broome County; rifles are currently allowed east of the Susquehanna River. But his bill didn’t generate an Assembly companion.

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