By Glen Wunderlich
When State House Representative Matt Lori (R – District 59) called me about my position on HB 5249 – a bill that would make certain straight-wall cartridges legal for deer hunting in Michigan’s southern zone – I was pleasantly surprised. For those of you not familiar with the proposed legislation, here it is: It would allow a .35 caliber or larger rifle loaded with straight-wall cartridges of a minimum case length of 1.16 and a maximum case length of 1.8 inches in Zone III (shotgun zone.) I had written that the legislation should have been amended to allow all straight-wall cartridges – an argument based on ballistics.
Representative Lori listened and never attempted to persuade my thinking otherwise, and in fact, asked if I would testify at a hearing in Lansing. I agreed.
Then a couple of weeks ago, Matt Lori notified me that it was showtime. He then encouraged me to discuss the rationale of the bill with its author, Craig Larson of Niles, Michigan, who had worked for several years on the matter, but would not be able to attend the hearing.
Mr. Larson was well-versed on all aspects of the debate and convinced me that expanding the bill to more allowable cartridges would have the effect of defeating it entirely. His pitch was to take a small step now, and after having implemented the rules, analyze results and amend it later, if concerns did not materialize. I agreed to go along.
At the hearing Mr. Lori explained the logic of the bill and I was called upon to testify as to the ballistic properties of what is currently legal and the proposed cartridges. Committee members asked questions about how the DNR would be able to enforce the rules and I suggested a simple go/no-go gauge for field checking cartridges. No actual opposition was presented but no vote was taken, either.
To my delight, Susan Martin, Chief of Staff, District 59 has informed me that the bill has, in fact, been voted out of committee and now heads to the House floor, where it is expected to pass before summer break. From there, the bill would move to the Senate and its committee.
The all-or-nothing contingent, of which I had been a member, may not totally agree on the approach, but if the bill passes, Michigan should see an increase in sportsman participation and accuracy afield.
Although there would be no increased cost to the state, additional firearms sales in the newly configured rifles using pistol cartridges, would funnel more funds into wildlife conservation through additional hunting license sales and excise taxes imposed on firearms and ammunition.
It just may be time to dust off an old lever gun and prepare it for action, because common sense is on the march in Michigan.