Michigan House of Representatives passes bill that would allow the use of certain rifles during the regular firearm deer season

Efforts to make similar changes in Ohio ongoing

by Chad D. Baus & Larry S. Moore

Owosso, Michigan's Argus Press recently published an op-ed discussing House passage of Michigan House Bill 5249, which would allow the use of certain specific rifles during the regular firearm deer season in the area that is currently restricted to only shotguns, muzzleloaders, and certain types of pistols.

From the article:

To date there has been little resistance to the notion of using relatively low-powered, straight-wall centerfire rifles in Zone III. When compared to modern shotguns and modern in-line muzzleloaders, this "new" brand of caliber pales. Once again, Republican leadership is on the verge of restoring some of our lost rights, which were originally taken from us on strictly arbitrary reasons based on misconceptions.

The bill would amend Part 435 (Hunting and Fishing Licensing) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to allow individuals to use the following firearms in the limited firearms area during the regular firearm deer season:

  • A shotgun with a smooth or rifled barrel.
  • A .35-caliber or larger pistol that can hold up to nine shells at a time in the barrel and magazine combined and loaded with straight walled cartridges.
  • A muzzle-loading rifle or black-powder rifle loaded with black powder or a commercially manufactured black powder substitute.
  • A .35-caliber or larger rifle loaded with straight-walled cartridges that have a minimum case length of 1.16 and a maximum case length of 1.80 inches.

Under the bill, limited firearms area would be identical to the area currently designated as the "southern shotgun zone"

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs supports the bill, whereby, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources opposes the bill. Oh, yeah. So do two Democrats: Lansing's Joan Bauer (District 68) and Muskegon's Marcia Hovey-Wright (District 92). However, 106 of their peers voted against them.

According to the article, the MDNR testified against the idea, claiming that "allowing the use of rifles with straight-walled cartridges, even if they shoot a distance similar to what is currently allowed, could create the perception of a safety risk. This could lead to local communities requesting the closure of some hunting land, potentially eliminating hunting opportunities."

Additionally, the MDNR reportedly has concerns over how it would enforce this new exception. The article explains that "currently, conservation officers are able to monitor and check firearm compliance from long distances because all rifles are currently prohibited in the southern shotgun zone. Allowing certain rifles that shoot straight-walled cartridges could result in conservation officers having to enter privately-owned land to check cartridges, rather than simply being able to check the gun from the road using binoculars."

Again, from the op-ed:

I must say that these are some lame excuses to support its position. First off, if the straight-wall cartridges are actually perceived by the ignorant to be something they are not, then that's not a good reason to squelch the idea; it's a good reason to educate the uninformed.

And, secondly, not being able to distinguish firearm calibers from a distance is no different than so many other regulations already in effect. As merely an example of the ridiculousness of the opposition, handguns in Zone III are limited to straight-wall cartridges already, and therefore, present the identical "dilemma" to law enforcement.

Less recoil of this class of cartridges may be appealing to youth, women, and senior citizens and could provide additional opportunities for those populations to hunt during the firearm deer season. And, additional license sales mean more money for conservation.

For some time now, Buckeye Firearms Association representatives have been discussing the adoption of similar rules in the state of Ohio. BFA Minutemen Dan Allen and Aaron Kirkingburg have spent hours researching material. They have attended previous open house events, met with Division of Wildlife personnel several times in 2011 and are presenting their case to sportsmen organizations.

The proposal is simple: any cartridge currently legal to hunt with in a handgun, would be legal in a rifle. They do not want a confusing list of "rifle only" cartridges. They are not asking for any changes to the current legal handgun cartridges and they are not asking for any special season.

Indiana approved allowing rifles with pistol cartridges in 2007. A Google search turns up plenty of news articles and discussion forums about the change, but we find no data to indicate problems nor safety issues with the rifle use. The deer hunting sportsmen and women of Ohio should have the opportunity to hunt Ohio deer with their choice of hunting tools. While some may not like to admit it, almost all hunting today is sport hunting. We should be able to enjoy that sport with the tools we choose.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman. Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

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