Senate File 132 cleared the House with a 44-14 final vote last week. Gov. Matt Mead signed the bill Monday.
The House later pulled an amendment it included earlier in the week that would have allowed suppressors for hunting predators and small game but would have prohibited them for big-game species.
“Now you can take big game,” said Irah Leonetti, president of the Wyoming Game Wardens Association.
In opposition to the bill, the association said silencers or suppressors could help poachers and would give hunters an unfair advantage over game.
“There is no reason to criminalize the use of these devices for hunting big game,” said Dave Campbell of Powell, who favored the bill.
A game warden can investigate when he or she hears a shot, said Alan Osterland, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife supervisor in Cody.
Landowners can hear shooting and notify the Game and Fish. Most game wardens have worked poaching cases because they or a witness heard a shot, Leonetti said.
A suppressor cannot completely silence gunfire.
A round traveling faster than the speed of sound can’t be suppressed, Campbell said.
But a subsonic round attached to a suppressor and effective at up to 200 yards is very difficult to hear, Leonetti said.
In a YouTube video, the only sound emitted from multiple .300 caliber rounds fired from a semi-automatic was the metallic clack as the rifle ejected spent shells.
Leonetti said he priced suppressors at $1,000 to $2,000, and owning one requires a lot of red tape. The price alone may discourage illicit use, but suppressors could be dangerous in the hands of would be poachers, he said.
Getting a suppressor requires an extensive background check by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
People testifying before the Legislature argued for suppressors from the standpoint of the Second Amendment. “It’s been a hot topic this legislative session,” Leonetti said.
Campbell said prohibiting suppressors is an archaic restriction.
About 30 states allow suppressors for hunting, and suppressors protect hearing, he said.
“This really isn’t a Second Amendment issue per se,” he said. “In my mind it’s more an administrative/public health issue.”
But Leonetti cited safety concerns about the use of silencers. When a non-suppressed gun is fired, those in the vicinity can hear, it and they can chose to hunt in a different drainage, he said.
The Game and Fish Department must do the Legislature’s bidding.
“Whatever is passed by the Legislature we’ll implement,” said Eric Keszler, Game and Fish public information officer in Cheyenne. “That’s our job.”