Bill to allow use of airbows introduced

Harrisburg — A bill that would add a new tool to Pennsylvania’s hunting woods has been introduced, even while two others with similar goals have stalled.

Rep. Marc Gergely is prime sponsor of House Bill 2081. It would legalize tools like the Crosman Airbow for use in firearms deer seasons.

Right now, all air-powered weapons are prohibited. Gergely’s bill would open the door to all those capable of flinging an arrow at speeds of at least 400 feet per second.

That’s what the Airbow does.

It looks like a rifle, with a stock and trigger. But it shoots arrows rather than bullets.

Crosman debuted the tool just this year.

Gergely, a Democrat from Allegheny County, believes it might be a big part of hunting’s future. He said as much in a memo sent out this winter to other lawmakers.

“This is a new technology that allows for safe and easy firing of an arrow with unmatched speed, accuracy and stopping power,” he wrote. “Furthermore, throughout the nation, the airbow is gaining significant popularity due to its combination of the familiar rifle experience with that of archery.

“Without a doubt, airbows will play a big part in the future of hunting.”

Three other lawmakers agreed enough to sign on as cosponsors.

His bill has been referred to the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee for consideration.

Where the bill might go, or how fast, remains to be seen.

Sometimes, lawmakers move slowly, or bills stall.

Such is the case with House Bill 263, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gabler of Clearfield County. The Republican’s proposal would remove the standing prohibition on using air rifles for hunting.

It wouldn’t mandate they be legalized, nor would it specify what kinds of air rifles, in what calibers and capable of firing what speeds be OK.

Rather, it would just allow Pennsylvania Game Commissioners to determine when and where, if at all, to permit their use.

The commission supports the bill, as do most state wildlife agencies. Forty-eight states permit air rifles in some seasons.

Gabler’s bill seemed to be moving, having passed the House of Representatives. It got two-thirds of the way through the state Senate, too.

It hasn’t moved any further for months, however.

Likewise stuck is Senate Bill 737 sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson, a Butler County Republican. It would remove the prohibition on hunting with semiautomatic rifles and allow the Game Commission to decide when and where they might be permitted, too.

The commission supports that bill, too, as do many sportsmen’s groups.

But, while it’s passed the Senate, it’s stalled in the House of Representatives.

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