PA House kills bill allowing 10-year-olds to hunt


Mar 11, 2001
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House rejects 10-year-old hunters

Friday, September 28, 2001

By John M.R. Bull, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Correspondent

HARRISBURG -- A bill that would allow 10-year-olds to hunt was killed yesterday as the result of public antagonism, partially fueled by a York County man whose son was killed by a poorly supervised preteen in a hunting accident years ago.

"I'm ecstatic. I got a big lift today," said Donald Coe of York, whose son -- a minister -- was shot to death by a 12-year-old in a 1978 hunting accident. "I'm not a crusader, but I never saw a 10-year-old I would want out in the field with a loaded rifle."

Coe heard about a bill proposed by state Rep. Bruce Smith, D-York, who chairs the House Game and Fisheries Committee, that would allow 10-year-olds to hunt if they passed a hunter safety course and were directly supervised by an adult with a hunting license.

Junior hunting licenses can now be obtained by 12-year-olds. Smith wanted the age requirement lowered by two years.

"I needed about 10 minutes to decide I would not sit idly by," Coe said.

"They do that and someone else would be killed. It was going to happen eventually."

Coe called state lawmakers, organized a petition drive that netted more than 400 signatures of opponents and testified against the bill yesterday at a committee hearing.

Combined with the public opposition of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania and other smaller hunting groups, Smith yesterday declared the bill "dead" and promised it would not be brought for a vote in his committee, much less sent to the full House.

"The debate was worthwhile," Smith said. "I wanted to explore the possibilities."

He said the many letters and e-mails he received "ran about 4 to 1 against" the bill, and he even had a fourth-grade teacher call to tell him that the 10-year-olds she deals with daily are not physically or emotionally mature enough to be trusted with loaded weapons.

Other lawmakers were troubled by the thought of 10-year-olds being out in the woods with loaded weapons and supervised by an adult hunter who may be only 18 and have only a year of experience in the woods.

"This is not a good idea," said Rep. David Levdansky, D-Elizabeth Township.

"This is not a compelling issue. Most people either don't care, or don't want it. It's not going anywhere."

Smith wrote the bill after a man called him to ask if the age could be lowered because a grandson wanted to be able to hunt in Pennsylvania.

Don Kipp of Lewisburg yesterday said his grandson bagged his first buck in Missouri at age 9, and thought it would be nice to hunt in Pennsylvania with his grandfather. Kipp's grandson is now 11.

Kipp said he was not surprised that the bill was killed, but he said another option that should be explored is whether to allow provisional hunting permits for 10-year-olds on a case-by-case basis instead of lowering the hunting age for everyone from 12 to 10.

One supporter of the bill, John Pawlowski of Coatesville, said he had no problem with properly supervised 10-year-olds hunting, and he took aim at parents who objected to the idea.

"Some people have this thing about gun sports, but they have no problem with their 3- or 4-year-olds getting mauled on a soccer field," he said.


Aug 30, 2001
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As a resident of PA, I am 100% in favor of not lowering the age for hunting to 10. The hunting pressure in some parts of the state is unbelievable. Before I stopped hunting I saw 10 or more hunters in an area the size of 2 football fields. All we would need would be a nervous excited 10 year old out there. This was the exception rather than the rule but with people posting their land it is driving more hunters to places where they can hunt. Older, more experienced hunters do stupid things. Ten is not an age where maturity has developed.

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