Among the Pantheon of asinine gun laws on the books perhaps the dumbest of the lot are those that restrict the sale, ownership and use of sound suppressors. Suppressors–please don’t call them silencers as they don’t silence anything–had the misfortune of being lumped together with machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns and explosive devices in the 1934 National Firearms Act.

The irony is that while you can argue back and forth about the merits of short-barreled sub-guns–personally, I’m a big fan–there shouldn’t be any debate about suppressors. Put simply, they are the most important safety devices we can attach to our guns–if only our government officials would make it easier for us to do so.

Suppressors are legal in most states and you can hunt with them in some form or another in 20 something states by my rough estimate–but acquiring them is costly and takes a Herculean amount of time and effort.

There’s a bill under consideration here in Montana–H.B. 174–that would allow suppressors to be used for hunting. I traveled up to Helena yesterday to testify on behalf of the bill, which is in front of the House Judiciary Committee at the moment.

I figure there were about 30 people in attendance at the hearing and about a dozen or so got up to speak in support of the bill.

The points made by the proponents were all good. Notable, that suppressors do a great job of bringing the ear-damaging sound made a muzzle blast down to a safer level for a shooter and whoever is with them behind the gun–whether that is a coach or hunting partner. At the same time, suppressors do nothing to diminish the sonic boom of a bullet from a hunting rifle–negating their effect as a “poacher’s tool” for hunting undetected.
If you don’t want to take my word on this, give this study a read. It was conducted in Finland in 1992 as a joint project between Ministry of Environment and the National Board of Labor Protection and backs up the claims of suppressor advocates with cold, hard facts.

Suppressors are legal to own and hunt with throughout many countries in Europe and elsewhere. Finland is one. So are Norway and Sweden. And in the UK their use is mandatory in some cases.

I was disappointed that the sponsor of H.B. 174 offered to amend the bill to exclude big game from the allowable list of species you can hunt with suppressors. This was due to pressure put on him by state game wardens, who are operating under the misconception that they would allow poachers to shoot animals undetected.

If the bills moves out of the House Judiciary Committee and makes it to the floor for a general vote I’ll head back up and testify once more. Even if we can amend the law to hunt predators, varmints and other non-game species with suppressors that will be a big step in the right direction.

Photo: gman552