Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Should hunting rifles be silenced?

Proponents believe silencers (or, more properly, suppressors) are a good idea because they’ll prevent the sound of hunters’ shots from disturbing nearby landowners.

I’m sure deer poachers everywhere are salivating at the thought.

If suppressors became legal in West Virginia, trophy bucks in the state’s four bowhunting-only counties would live live hard. The sound of gunshots, particularly at night, is one of the few ways law enforcement officers have of detecting poachers in those rugged, largely rural counties.

As far as I know, no one has yet proposed changing West Virginia’s law. But lawmakers in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington have already approved suppressors, and the Georgia Legislature just took up the issue. From the Associated Press:

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia Senate proposal would end the ban on silencers for hunting firearms.
Senate Bill 301 is sponsored by Sen. John Bulloch, who says allowing hunters to use silencers would keep them from disturbing their neighbors. The Ochlocknee Republican says hunters would still have to have a federal permit to possess a silencer and argues this does not create an unfair advantage for hunters.
“As our growth patterns have changed and we’re having more and more residential properties infringing on hunting properties,” Bulloch said. “If you have a silencer on your hunting gun, the noise would not disturb neighbors as bad. This doesn’t really have anything to do with fair chase. It’s about trying to be respectful to people in residential areas.”
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which Bulloch co-chairs. Sen. Ross Tolleson, a Republican from Perry who is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, is the committee’s chairman.
Bulloch said the legislation was brought to him by the National Rifle Association. Reached by telephone, NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said the organization does support the use of silencers, which she referred to as suppressors.
“There are several benefits to hunting with suppressed firearms,” Samford said. “Suppressors decrease the gunfire noise, which is important because a lot of hunters don’t always wear hearing protection. Suppressors also reduce recoil and muzzle rise. That allows the shooter to get into position for a follow up shot much more quickly and accurately.”
Samford said that silencers do not allow hunters to sneak up on animals because a sound is still emitted.
The NRA successfully pushed for similar legislation last year in Kansas, Louisiana and Washington, and supports legalizing silencers in all 50 states. Silencers are legal to possess and use for lawful purposes in most states, but require a federal permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The permit costs $200.