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PA - Rifle ban proposed after bullet hits house, shed

N. LONDONDERRY TWP.

Monday, December 26, 2005

BY BARBARA MILLER
Of Our Palmyra Bureau

A Lebanon County man who found a rifle bullet hole in his house and another in his shed thinks it's time to ban rifle hunting in North Londonderry Twp.

Kenneth Neiswender of the 700 block of Eisenhower Road, who found the holes over the last five or six years, said he's afraid someone is going to get killed.

Whether shotguns and muzzleloaders pose less risk to the public than rifles will be explored in a study that will start in January, paid for by the state.

Allowing only shotguns or muzzleloaders would be wise, Neiswender said. A rifle bullet can go more than a mile, while a shotgun slug only 150 yards, he said.

"I hunt with a rifle myself, but this is getting out of hand," he told the township supervisors Dec. 19.

"We're looking into it," said Ron Fouche, the chairman of the supervisors. He added, "I'm not sure a municipality can do it. It may have to be the county."

In Pennsylvania, only the state Game Commission can regulate hunting and trapping, said Jerry Feaser, a commission spokesman. Municipalities can limit the discharge of firearms, but they don't have authority to regulate activity being done as part of lawful hunting, Feaser said. Only the Game Commission or the Legislature can ban rifle hunting, and several counties persuaded state authorities to do that.

Rifle hunting is banned in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

Feaser said the Game Commission has studied whether shotguns are safer than rifles and concluded they aren't necessarily.

The commission recognized it didn't have the expertise to analyze all the data, which led to the current study, he said.

"We want to make our decision based on fact," Feaser said.

The $99,000 study, to be conducted by MountainTop Technologies Inc. of Johnstown, will include creating a computer model to analyze incidents of people and property being hit by projectiles, said John Rowe, the chief analyst for the state Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. It should be done by mid-2006, Rowe said.

North Londonderry Police Chief Kevin Snyder said he believes development is starting to encroach on hunting areas in many parts of Lebanon County.

"The township is not going to ban hunting," Snyder said. "But I'm a hunter, and I'm a person who wouldn't have a problem" if rifle hunting were banned.

"On the other hand, it comes down to being a responsible hunter. If you're responsible, you can safely use rifles in this area yet. It may mean passing up a deer because it's running toward a roadway. If every hunter would do that, we wouldn't have a problem. There are hunters who take chances and ruin it for everyone," he said.

Snyder said he knew of only one such incident in the township this year. A man was charged with trespassing and Game Commission violations after shooting a six-point buck several weeks ago on Pennsy Supply quarry property east of Forge Road.

Michael Orwan of Hummelstown, who teaches competitive rifle shooting for the Palmyra Sportsmen's Club in North Londonderry Twp., said he wouldn't oppose a ban on rifle hunting if there's a "serious safety issue."

"Let's face it, people come before killing the critters," Orwan said.

But he said some shotguns can be modified to fire 1,000 yards, which is nearly the range of a rifle.

Another club member, Sam Shrefler of Annville, who hunts in western Pennsylvania, said he believes southern Lebanon County would be suited to a ban on rifle hunting, but not the northern part of the county, which is more sparsely populated.

He also would oppose expanding the ban to the northern part of the state.

Rowe said the Legislature began looking at expanding rifle bans after two nonhunters in western Pennsylvania were shot and killed by hunters in 1996. In 2004, a pregnant woman in Lehigh County survived being shot while sitting in a car in a driveway.

BARBARA MILLER: 832-2090 or barbmiller@patriot-news.com

2005 The Patriot-News

2005 PennLive.com All Rights Reserved.

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