VENESKY: NRA wrong on Pa. semi-automatic hunting debate

(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
  • The Pa. Game Commission is close to approving the use of semi-automatic weapons for hunting.
  • The NRA has come out in favor of the proposal, which may receive final approval in late March.
  • Many Pennsylvania hunters, however, have safety and ethical concerns over the proposal.

I guess I agree with gun control and anti-hunting advocates on one thing.

And so do other hunters.

Pennsylvania hunters are now safer than ever according to a report by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

According to a news release on the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action website, the organization is urging people to contact the Pennsylvania Game Commission board and urge them to finalize their motion to allow semi-automatic rifles for hunting.

The measure was passed unanimously by the board on Jan. 31, and they’re scheduled to vote on final approval at the March 27-28 meeting.

The NRA supported the move before it was passed, and they’re taking action again because, according to the news release, “there are reports that gun control and anti-hunting advocates are still campaigning against the proposed rule-making.”

Well, let me offer a report of a hunter and gun owner campaigning against the proposal as well.

Opposed to NRA involvement: I really have to question the NRA’s involvement in this issue. Allowing semi-automatic rifles for hunting is not a gun control issue.

It’s about gun usage. In no way is gun ownership threatened or even involved in the current proposal.

The PGC board essentially gave blanket approval to the use of semi-automatic rifles in hunting, allowing them for just about every season but spring gobbler.

That’s a mistake.

I’m fine with allowing semi-automatic rifles — no larger than .22 caliber, for small game such as squirrels, and I’m OK with their use for coyotes and woodchucks.

But big game?

No way.

I take that position not because I’m a gun control advocate or anti-hunter. I’m not.

I’m against allowing the use of semi-automatic rifles out of safety and ethical reasons.

Safety concerns: While the motion restricts semi-automatic rifles to six rounds — one in the chamber and five in the magazine, for big game, it still poses a safety risk. Being able to discharge six rounds as fast as one can pull the trigger poses an enormous safety risk, especially during deer season when the woods are crowded. Add the fact that Pennsylvania’s rural landscape continues to become increasingly consumed with houses, and the safety issue is clear.

With our landscape and enormous hunting population, Pennsylvania is unique. Just because other states allow semi-automatics for their big game seasons without any issues doesn’t mean it’s OK for Pennsylvania.

And I don’t buy the theory that a quick second shot from a semi-automatic rifle will reduce the chance of a wounded animal getting away.

Hunting isn’t about speed.

Shooting at a deer is an act that should be slow and calculated.

The first shot is what counts, not the first six.

Ethical concerns: And that’s where ethics come into play.

Will a hunter with a semi-automatic rifle be inclined to rip off six shots at a deer running across a field?

While supporters contend that having the ability for a quick follow-up shot, or shots, with a semi-automatic will cut down on the number of wounded deer, I believe the opposite could happen.

In my opinion, a manually-operated rifle offers a more accurate follow-up shot because one has to work the action and then re-focus their sight picture to take an accurate second shot.

An accurate follow-up shot is more important than a quick one.

While I am supportive of everything the NRA does to protect our gun rights, I strongly disagree with their stance on this issue.

And I’m not the only one. I’ve spoken with plenty of veteran hunters and even law enforcement personnel who disagree with allowing semi-automatic rifles for big game in Pennsylvania.

While the NRA correctly points out in its news release that gun control and anti-hunting advocates are against the PGC’s semi-automatic proposal, they left out one group.