A bill that would allow private land deer hunters to use their choice of weapons during Mississippi's primitive weapons season was shot down Wednesday (Feb. 27) by a close vote in the Senate.

But there is still a slim chance that House Bill 1139 could be recalled for another vote before the March 14 deadline for reconsideration.

H.B. 1139, which passed the House 114-3 on Feb. 12, was a surprise failure on the other side of the Capitol when 25 Senators voted against the amended measure. There were 20 favorable votes, and six Senators were either absent or did not vote. The bill was immediately held for reconsideration.

A Senator, who voted for the passage and would only speak on the condition of anonymity, said the opposition came from gun dealers. He said he was told by several Senators who voted against 1139 that gun dealers argued that they had already placed orders for the year and that it was too late to cancel those orders. They feared they would be left with thousands of dollars worth of firearms they couldn't sell.

The guns in questions are those single-shot, breech-loading centerfire rifles of at least .35 caliber that have been legal for several years during primitive weapon season. Thousands have been sold, but many hunters in a poor state with a struggling economy who couldn't afford to buy an extra gun felt the situation unfair.

"A friend of mine who works (as a lobbyist) at the Capitol told me that the gun dealers are responsible, and I'm sorry but that's not right," said Jeremy Todd, an avid deer hunter from Jackson who strongly supports the bill. "What are there, maybe 100 gun dealers who'd be affected? How many deer hunters are there in Mississippi, a quarter million? This doesn't make sense to side with the few against the masses. Especially when those dealers had to know this bill was coming.

"The primitive weapon season is a joke and everybody knows that it needs to be done away with and that it's just a matter of time until it is trashed. The whole idea of still having a primitive weapon season when so many people now use centerfires is ridiculous, anyway. There is no tradition, and there hasn't been for a long, long time."

The original House bill had been amended by the Senate on three points, including (1) to include only those primitive weapon seasons after Nov. 30, (2) to allow deeded landowners or leaseholders AND THEIR GUESTS to use regular guns, and (3) to make the effective date July 1, 2014.

Excluding the special early November doe-only season and moving the effective date to 2014 were both aimed at giving some relief to gun dealers.

"How stupid was that, thinking that moving the date back to 2014 would help the gun shops?" Todd said. "Shows you how ridiculous things are in the Capitol. Who in their right mind would shell out $600 or $800 for a new gun and scope for one season? Not me, that's for sure. I can't afford it if we stay the way it is forever."

As written and amended, H.B. 1139 would require that anyone using a regular firearm during a primitive weapon season would still need to buy either a Sportsman License or a primitive weapon permit.