Call it an unintended consequence, but if the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission again approves the use of air guns and air bows for some game animals in the state, it will open a new avenue of hunting options to convicted felons wanting to hunt.
The Commission initially approved the use of air guns and air bows during its March meeting, but walked the vote back pending more discussion Thursday at its annual public meeting in Lubbock.
Initially, the Commission approved air guns and air bows for the taking of alligators, bighorn sheep, deer, furbearers, javelina and pronghorn antelope. Also on the list were non-migratory game birds, including chacalaca, pheasants, quail and turkey. At the time, the only restriction was that the gun must be at least .30 caliber for all mammals and turkeys, and .177 for the birds and squirrels.
Released convicted felons may obtain a hunting license in Texas, but are currently restricted as to what types of weapons they may use. State and federal laws do not allow them to possess firearms such as centerfire and rimfire rifles, shotguns and handguns for hunting. Under current law, they are restricted to hunting with bows, crossbows and antique muzzleloading guns manufactured prior to 1899 or replicas of them that do not use rimfire or centerfire ammunition.
Asked about whether the air guns and air bows would be legal for felons to possess for hunting, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division director Clayton Wolf provided an email from the department’s Law Enforcement Division.
“That is correct, as air guns and air bows are not defined as a firearm by state penal code or federal law. Unless specific terms of parole or probation prohibiting the possession of a weapon, state law would not prevent a person from hunting with these weapons,” the email read.
If approved again by commissioners, the use of air guns and air bows will go into affect for the 2018-19 hunting seasons.