“It’s just ridiculous,” said Dave Bragonier, retired game warden. It will allow miscreants to shoot from the highway or wherever they wish, he said. “Poachers and other outlaws would just love it.”
But House District 25 Representative-elect Dave Blevins, R-Powell, said the bill deserves consideration.
“I’m not completely opposed to it,” Blevins said. Blevins was appointed to the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee, which voted recently to sponsor the bill.
“I’m not dismissing (Bragonier’s) opinion,” Blevins added. “It is valid. Poaching is illegal, and it can’t be tolerated, because that’s one of our natural resources we need to maintain.”
Mike Healy of Worland, commissioner for District 5 of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, said the commission hasn’t discussed the bill, but in his personal opinion he is OK with adding silencers to a hunter’s toolbox.
“I don’t see why not,” Healy said.
The term “silencer” is outdated. Suppressor is the more apt term, said Dave Campbell, who offered to give legislators a demonstration when they convene in Cheyenne early next year.
“They don’t really silence,” Campbell said.
Suppressors are vilified by the movie image of a gunman using the silencer to kill people, Campbell said.
He demonstrated the use of a supressor Monday at the shooting range east of Powell. The suppressor extends from the barrel perhaps 8 inches.
“Crack!” The .223 caliber round sound is muffled, no louder than a .22.
“That’s all they are is a muffler, same technology as on your car,” he said.
The cost of suppressors would discourage poachers from using them, Campbell said. A rim fire suppressor goes for $198 to $800. For a 7.62 mm or .30 caliber, the price is $600 to $2,200, he said.
Poachers won’t care how much it costs, Bragonier said.
Thirty-six states allow hunters to use suppressors. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives requires fingerprints, background checks and input from local law enforcement about the applicant. Those with a criminal record are not allowed the permit, which takes three to five months to process, Campbell said.
The loud report from gunfire causes hearing loss. “To me it’s a public health issue,” Campbell said.
Blevins said he would consider the bill because repeated shooting does damage hearing.
“We (legislators) can certainly consider that.”
Healy said hunters now have highly efficient rifles, cartridges and scopes. Significantly reducing the rifle’s report may be a disadvantage to wildlife. For example, if a hunter takes a shot at a herd of deer, they will run from the field. If the boom is muted, they may remain, making it easier for a hunter to take another shot, he said.
In addition, other hunters might be more vigilant if they hear shots in the vicinity. They won’t hear the shots with a silencer attached, Healy said.
Blevins said most hunters are very safety conscious and well aware of their surroundings and other hunters in the area.
Silencers may facilitate a hunter’s odds, but Healey said he figured the increase in hunter success would be less than 5 percent overall.
Bragonier said he believes a lot of game wardens would be opposed to silencers. It will help poachers and could be a risk to public safety.
“They’ve been illegal for years and years, and there’s a damn good reason,” Bragonier said.