Silence is golden: Legislature permits use of suppressors

By Sarah Pridgeon

Wyoming has joined 26 other states in allowing hunters to use suppressors on their firearms. Effective July 1, a bill now signed into law by Governor Matt Mead permits the use of suppressors for all types of hunting, including varmint, predator and big game.

Senate File 132 amends the statute that prohibited the possession of suppressors in the game fields and forests, altering it to exclude only the use of automatic weapons to take wildlife. The bill was initially presented by Senator Ogden Driskill who, along with Representative Mark Semlek, voted aye to its passing.

Among the posited benefits of suppressors is their potential to prevent hearing damage over time for hunters in the field. Although generally referred to as silencers, a suppressor is not capable of fully silencing a gun.

“Silencer is not the right word, that’s kind of a movie magic name,” commented Representative Allen Jaggi. “You cannot silence any gun, you just have too much gas…and the bullet moving through it.”

The noise level at which sustained exposure can result in hearing damage is 115 decibels, while the pain level is125 decibels. A typical suppressor, said Jaggi, can reduce the noise created by a normal hunting rifle from around 170 to 130 decibels.

“130 decibels is a chainsaw, so that’s how quiet you’re going to make your gun when you shoot it,” stated Jaggi, responding to concerns that a suppressor may make it difficult to determine the location of other hunters. “So the idea that you’re not going to hear it is just not really true.”

Several members of the House shared their experiences of hearing loss from hunting and their hope that the use of suppressors will reduce this danger for the next generation.

“I’m concerned about the young people who would go out now and try to hunt, if they suffer the same type of hearing loss. That’s the ones who need it, not the ones on a range shooting at a target,” said Representative Robert McKim.

The bill was put forward partly because the original statute stated that a suppressor, while legal within the state, may not be used anywhere in Wyoming where wildlife is or may be present.

“That just means that, if you take your gun out to shoot, you’re not going to shoot with a suppressor because just about anywhere you go, wildlife may be,” Jaggi explained. “The game warden is going to give you a ticket if you have your suppressor and go out to shoot cans or to target shoot.”

“There are other benefits of this,” he added. “There’s less recoil when you have a suppressor, so when I’m teaching my grandkids to shoot it’s not going to kick them so bad, which means they’re not going to flinch, which means they’re going to learn to be better shots.”

Though concerns about suppressors being used by poachers were brought up during House discussions, they were summarily dismissed as unlikely.

“If 27 states currently allow the use of suppressors to hunt big game, it would appear to me that if this is a problem or an issue, then we would have heard some testimony along the way,” commented Representative Baker.

“If you’re a poacher, you could be using [a suppressor] right now,” agreed Jaggi. “You don’t care what the law says.”

The House adopted an amendment early last week that would have prohibited the use of silencers for hunting big game species, allowing them only when hunting predators and small game.