A Western Maryland legislator is trying again to gain passage for a bill that would allow bow-hunters to carry handguns while hunting in some areas of the state.
Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Allegany/Garrett/Washington, has introduced a bill similar to one filed last year that passed the Senate but did not get out of committee in the House of Delegates.
“(Hunters) are allowed to carry a handgun as they hunt with a rifle … but you cannot carry a handgun and hunt deer with a bow,” he said.
Edwards, who said that 30 other states have similar rules, said his bill is aimed to protect hunters who might encounter bears or other wild animals as they are out deer hunting.
“You have to be 21, legally be able to have a handgun, the barrel can’t be over six inches long and you can’t put a scope on it,” Edwards said about his bill.
The bill only applies to Garrett and Allegany counties and parts of western Washington County, an area referred to as Region A by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for hunting and trapping purposes.
“I have had all kinds of hunters chime in on this… the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s association are big pushers of this,” Edwards said.
The senator said it was logical to let hunters carry a handgun if they were using bows and arrows. That’s because hunters with rifles can use the rifle to protect themselves.
The bill would “allow hunters to protect themselves a little quicker versus putting an arrow in a bow,” Edwards said.
The senator stressed that the bill had nothing to do with any other gun legislation at the current session of the General Assembly.
“It is a protective measure,” he said.
The Maryland Department of Natural resources opposed the bill in 2012 because “it could create human safety hazards and result in unnecessary harm to black bears.”
One suggested way of dealing with a bear was noise or bear pepper spray, according to a 2012 DNR document opposing the bill.
“According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in self-defense against bears, shooting a bear at close-range with a handgun can potentially escalate the seriousness of an attack; while encounters where firearms are not used are less likely to result in injury or death of the human or the bear,” the document stated.
Since 2009, there have been three reported incidents of confrontations between bow hunters and bears where the hunters killed the bear, according to the document.
The Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore supported the bill in 2012, citing the growing black bear population in the state and the occasional reports of mountain lion sightings.