I'm reluctant to put a semi auto of any kind into the hands of an inexperienced shooter ! Mostly for safety reasons . A semi auto is always ready to fire the next round , without the shooter doing anything , and until I know that shooter is going to practice muzzle control , first and foremost , along with all the other aspects of safe gun handling , semis are a no no . I have found that the KISS ( Keep It Simple Stupid ) theory works best with greenhorns , it's much easier to teach and learn the basics , with a manually operated firearm !
I've all but made up my mind that I'm going to get him a bolt action of some sort. Most likely a magazine fed bolt action rifle that won't cost an arm and a leg. These days everything seems to have suddenly jumped in price due to the possible ban that may be coming in the future on "Assault Rifles" which a .22 isn't but that doesn't keep the prices from being unreasonable all the sudden.
I agree, a semi is something to think about in a year or two once he learns about rifles and guns in general and has had some experience to using and caring for a rifle.
As for me, this little venture into pricing guns and looking at .22s specifically has made me realize that I really want the 10/22 for some odd reason. Unless prices are completely insane I might just pick one up for myself. I guess I can use it for rodents, target practice and home defense. I really don't have hardly any rifles because I mostly have various pistols but variety is the spice of life.