Semi-autos for hunting in Pennsylvania – what do hunters want?


For the past 6 weeks, I have been talking with hunters about the legalization of semi-automatic rifles for various types of hunting in the Keystone State. The results were pretty clear. For coyotes and groundhogs, the answer was “yes,” even a strong yes. For small game, the verdict was “maybe.”  For deer and bear hunting – the response was divided, but coming up significantly on the “no” side.

Contrary to my interviews, comments to the Pennsylvania Game Commission had been running strongly in favor of total legalization. However, the agency knew that the National Rifle Association had issued a “call to action” to its members in support of semi-automatic rifles. The agency feared a possible skewing of comments by the NRA. Therefore, the commission asked their human-dimensions specialist Coren Jagnow to conduct a survey of 4000 licensed hunters. It asked:

Should semi-automatic rifles be legal for specific game species?

The results:

Furbearers – including coyotes

55 percent Support

34 percent Oppose


51 percent Support

37 percent Oppose

Small Game

44 percent Support

46 percent Oppose

Big Game (deer, bear, elk)

28 percent Support

64 percent Oppose

I own a semi-automatic rifle, and I’m not claiming that this makes any sense, but – based on the official survey and my own discussions – this is what Pennsylvania hunters want.

A few facts:

All other states allow a more liberal use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting than Pennsylvania. Data from other states have not indicated a legitimate safety concern.

Apparently, the majority of gun-owning survey participants did not view their negative vote as a Second Amendment issue.

It is clear: if the commission follows the wishes of licensed hunters – its customers – the legalization of semi-automatic rifles will be slow and deliberate. After all, following the wishes of hunters is what many have asked over and over for the agency to do.

The survey results were presented to the commissioners on March 27.  They voted on March 28.


Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Hunting News, Pennsylvania – Mark Nale

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