Back in January, the state of Pennsylvania became the very last state to approve the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting, a decision that was then revised when the final rules were published last week by the Board of Game Commissioners, who set all hunting rules and regulations within the Keystone State. The revision of the rule that was initially voted back in January and then put out for public review, has serious implications not just for the hunting community, but for the gun industry as well.

ceasefireThe initial regs allowed Pennsylvania hunters to use a semi-automatic rifle to hunt every type of game, which meant that hunters could tote any kind of semi-automatic (one trigger pull, one shot) rifle into the woods, including the newly-minted ‘modern sporting rifle,’ which is just an assault rifle by a different name. Now I’m not going to waste any reader’s time by going over that stupid ‘it’s not an assault rifle because it can’t be fired full-auto’ argument again. And if anyone wants to send me an email or a comment on my blog about how Mike the Gun Grabber doesn’t know anything about guns, you go right ahead. The bottom line is that the whole promotion of the ‘modern sporting rifle’ is a cynical attempt by the gun industry to create demand for a long-gun product which compensates for the fact that hunting just isn’t that popular any more.

When the rule that opened up all hunting to the AR was initially proposed back in January, the pro-gun bunch immediately began pushing the ‘modern sporting rifle’ nonsense, led of course by the NRA.  Here’s what the NRA said when the new rule was first announced: “Semi-automatic rifles simply give hunters a much greater ability to fire a timely and accurate follow-up shot, which can be the huge difference between wounding or quickly taking a game animal.”

Now that statement happens to be completely true, by the way, but what the NRA neglected to add was that the real issue involving the use of an AR to hunt game like deer, bear and elk is not the fact that a semi-automatic rifle can give the hunter a quick, second round, but that the usual AR caliber, 223 Remington or 5.56, throws a bullet which is simply not large enough to bring down a full-size game animal, even if you hit the animal with more than one shot.

Evidently, the Game Commissioners heard from enough folks to conduct a poll of 4,000 hunters, of whom a strong majority favored the use of semi-automatic rifles for hunting but did not want 22-caliber semi-autos to be approved for big-game hunting.  As a result of the public response, the January regulations were amended to allow 22-caliber, semi-auto rifles to be used only for small, fur-bearing game like woodchucks and other varmint types.

In other words, hunters in Pennsylvania clearly rejected the attempt by the gun industry to promote the idea that an AR-15 rifle is no different from any other type of ‘sporting’ gun and therefore should be approved equipment for any type of hunt. To the contrary, a majority of the folks who really know guns understand the difference between a real ‘sporting’ gun and what the industry is trying to pass off as an updated version of the gun that Grandpa used to take into the woods.

Leave it to the NRA, of course, to issue a statement about the decision of the Pennsylvania Game Commissioners which was totally, completely and almost laughably false: “Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Game Commission chose not to respect the rich hunting heritage of Pennsylvania gun owners,” said the NRA, “by rejecting the rule which would have allowed hunters to use semi-automatic rifles in some of the most popular seasons throughout the state.”

To the contrary, the Game Commission’s decision actually showed respect for Pennsylvania’s gun owners who evidently know the difference between a real sporting rifle and an assault rifle masquerading as a sporting gun.