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Sports

Report indicates rifles may be safer than shotguns

Bob Frye
| Monday, April 30, 2007

Perception doesn't match reality when it comes to the question of whether shotguns are safer than rifles for hunting in urban areas.

That's the conclusion of a study examining the relative danger of the two kinds of firearms.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has prohibited hunters from using shotguns in Allegheny County, a so-called "special regulations area," since 1979. The prohibition on rifles dates back even further -- to 1964 -- in parts of southeastern Pennsylvania.

Those decisions were made "based on emotion and perception" more than fact, said Mike Schmidt, deputy executive director of the commission.

They remained in place without question, however, until 2004, when a pregnant Lehigh County woman was struck by an errant shot. She survived, as did her child.

Still, as a result of that case, state lawmakers directed the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to research whether shotguns are safer than rifles and perhaps whether special regulations areas should be expanded.

The resulting report, recently released, says shotgun slugs are actually more prone to ricochet than are rifle bullets, particularly when fired from a level position, as is most common in hunting situations. It also determined that shotgun slugs can, in certain circumstances, travel farther than a rifle bullet.

Put all of that together and modern shotguns -- with their rifled barrels and shooting sabots -- are not inherently safer than rifles, said Todd Bacastow, a Penn State professor and consultant who worked on the project.

Brook trout

Anglers and conservationists have come up with a plan to save America's native brook trout.

The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture -- a coalition of federal and state agencies and private conservation groups -- has developed a "conservation strategy to restore healthy, fishable populations of eastern brook trout throughout their eastern native range."

According to the Venture, only 5 percent of the country's historical brook trout habitat remains intact because of poor land management practices.

The way to fix that, the group says, is to protect high quality habitat, improve 30 percent of damaged brook trout watersheds and reintroduce brook trout to 10 percent of the watersheds from which they have disappeared. In Pennsylvania, a focus of the project will be on cleaning pollution from abandoned coal mines.

Families afield

Six of the 12 states that introduced mentored youth hunting last year -- Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi and Ohio -- created nearly 34,000 new hunters.

The other six states with mentoring programs, including Pennsylvania, have no way to measure participation in their programs.

There were no accidents involving mentored hunters in any state last fall.

Firearms fatalities

According to new National Safety Council data, you're more likely to be killed by a vehicle, poison, drowning or choking than you are to be killed in an accident involving firearms.

Accidental firearm fatalities dropped 40 percent in 10 years, from 1,225 in 1995 to 730 in 2005. Hunting, meanwhile, remains one of the safest forms of recreation in the United States.

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