Game Commission won’t allow semiautomatic rifles for big game

Pennsylvania hunters will be allowed to use semiautomatic rifles for small game — but not for deer, black bear, elk and turkey.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, which gave unanimous preliminary approval to using semiautomatic rifles for both small and large game in January, made a last-minute amendment to the measure before its final vote Tuesday morning.

Pennsylvania was the only state in the nation that had no hunting seasons in which semiautomatic rifles could be used, but a new law took effect in November that allowed the Game Commission to regulate semiautomatic rifles and air guns.

The Game Commission said it found no evidence that semiautomatic rifles led to a decline in safety in any state where they’re allowed for hunting, but it received thousands of comments since the law took effect.

While most people were not opposed to using semiautomatic rifles for small game and furbearers, the board said many opposed the guns for big game. It said 2,000 hunters responded to a random survey and 64 percent were opposed or strongly opposed.

The commissioners said if there’s growing support for hunting big game with semiautomatic rifles in the future, they will consider further changes, but not for the 2017-18 license year.