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In the largest change to hunting equipment regulations since allowing crossbow use during the regular archery season, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave unanimous preliminary approval that would permit the use of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns while hunting big game, small game and furbearers. The measure also preliminarily approves the use of air rifles for small-game and furbearers.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that currently has no hunting seasons during which semiautomatic rifles can be used.

Prior to the vote, game commission staff did a thorough review of hunter safety in states that allow semiautomatic rifles, including neighboring states and states that most resemble Pennsylvania in terms of hunter density. The review uncovered no evidence the use of semiautomatic rifles has led to a decline in hunter safety in any state where they are permitted.

Semiautomatic rifles in .22-caliber or less that propel single-projectile ammunition would be legal firearms arms for small-game seasons. Semiautomatic firearms of any caliber that propel single-projectile ammunition also would be legal sporting arms for woodchucks and furbearers. Semiautomatic rifles and shotguns would be legal in seasons in which modern firearms can be used to take deer, black bears, elk and fall turkeys.

Semiautomatic firearms would be limited to six rounds ammunition capacity when used during a big game season.

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