HARRISBURG, PA — Semiautomatic centerfire rifles will not become lawful for hunting big game in the 2019-20 seasons.

After receiving input from the public and key members of the General Assembly, and noting the board already is considering several significant proposed changes, Pennsylvania Game Commissioner Brian Hoover today rescinded his direction to staff to develop language through which semiautomatic centerfire rifles could be included as lawful sporting arms in big-game seasons.

No proposal will be drawn up, and no vote will be taken.

Semiautomatic rifles that meet specific criteria have been permitted for hunting small game and furbearers for the past two years, and semiautomatic shotguns, which long have been permitted for deer hunting within the state’s Special Regulations Areas, were approved for use statewide for the 2018-19 seasons. With these opportunities now available, there was reason to believe opinions on using semiautomatic rifles for big-game hunting in Pennsylvania might have changed, but it quickly was clear they have not, said Hoover.

“While many states allow the use of semiautomatic rifles for hunting big game, and evidence suggests these firearms actually can be safer than their manually operated counterparts, it’s clear we haven’t yet arrived at the time when the majority of Pennsylvania hunters favor they be approved for big-game use,” Hoover said. “As opinions change, we will consider future changes to provide for the needs of our hunters.”

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