Size doesn't matter

2013-02-08T00:00:00Z 2013-12-28T15:18:13Z Size doesn't matter Casper Star-Tribune Online
February 08, 2013 12:00 am

Size doesn’t matter.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

It doesn’t matter the size of the animal as long as you’re talking silencers.

Originally, the Legislature killed (certainly no pun intended) a bill that would have allowed silencers for hunting in Wyoming.

Opposition to the bill in the Wyoming House stopped the bill, but the Senate resurrected a similar bill that would have allowed hunters to use silencers, but only for smaller game. The original bill had included hunting for larger game.

A Senate amendment would also allow the use of silencers and suppressors on automatic weapons, too — and not just for hunting.

We don’t oppose silencers because of the size of the game involved. We think silencers are wrong for Wyoming because of safety issues and the ethics of sport.

It’s probably reasonable to think that silencers — if they are to be misused — would be utilized to poach big game. So, making gun silencers illegal for hunting big game would make sense and has an internal logic about it.

Yet, that logic only goes so far.

If someone wants to poach big game, they’re going to do it regardless of laws. Since poaching is illegal, we doubt a poacher is going to not use a silencer just because it’s not legal for big game. After all, as long as you’re breaking one law, what’s another?

Instead, our concern has never really been about those who would break the law. Poachers who are breaking the law are probably already using silencers.

Our concern is for the people who follow the law but may inadvertently put others in danger.

We’re concerned that silencers and suppressors will allow residents to go out into the woods, shoot targets and no one in the area may know. The ability of some automatic weapons to fire off multiple rounds quickly means the public could be in a lot of danger without knowing it.

Silencers pose problems for two practical reasons.

First and foremost, the report of a gun is useful. The sound alerts other hunters to a gun being used in the area. It’s a warning to use extra caution. There simply is no substitute for it.

If silencers are used, that safety measure is taken away. The danger of hunting then increases.

Secondly, we wonder about those who employ silencers regularly. Let’s face it: There are a lot of tools at a hunter’s disposal that help give an advantage, including scopes. All of the gadgets and tools have one purpose: Giving hunters an extra advantage. Yet if hunters have the extra advantage but still aren’t effective, it might suggest they need more time practicing at a shooting range and less time in the field. We worry that silencers would be used by hunters who aren’t very good shots. And, silencing someone who is a poor shot seems like the makings of a very bad hunting story.

We believe these two reasons alone are enough for lawmakers to vote down the silencer bill. When you add poaching concerns on top of that, silencing the silencer bill seems to make sense, especially since hunting and tourism are a thriving, integral part of the Wyoming economy.

And yet maybe another important factor that should play a part in this discussion is that few hunters and groups, beyond those who are already keen on silencers, are asking for this change. This is not something that has been a pressing issue in the state. Instead, this is a push by a relatively small group of people.

It’s true that anything having to do with guns usually plays well in Wyoming, but many hunters and hunting groups have taken a longer view of silencers and suppressors. The safety concerns coupled with questions about how sportsman-like they are should be enough to give lawmakers pause.

So often in Wyoming, we remind folks — usually by bumper sticker — that we don’t care about how things are done in other states.

Could this be one of those times to take our own advice?

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(3) Comments

  1. kel
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    kel - February 09, 2013 10:49 am
    I appreciate the author putting out there what his/her concerns are about suppressor use while hunting. I would like to address a couple of the points and weigh in that the positives of suppressor use far outweigh these -only imagined- negatives. Where the author says that poaching would be a concern: It's a valid concern, but it simply *hasn't* proved to be an issue in any of the states where suppressors are legal to hunt with. So that concern is unfounded and not backed by any data from any state. It simply doesn't happen. The tools of a poacher are a crossbow or hunting from a vehicle where they can scoop up their game and quickly escape. Not the use of a highly-regulated suppressor that requires extensive background checks and registration to own. Poachers are NOT already using silencers, nor would they, based on that data from other states (This isn't just my opinion: I've personally talked to game warden / Fish and Wildlife Department supervisors in over 15 states and asked them this question quite pointedly - none said they'd ever had a problem with suppressors, or caught anyone poaching while using one.).

    The author is concerned that silencers and suppressors will allow residents to go out into the woods, shoot targets and no one in the area may know: But gunfire still makes noise, even with a suppressor, and no one is going to accidentally walk into a target area any more than they might with unsuppressed guns. The *origin* of the gunfire is what makes noise, not the target area, this is the same with suppressed or unsuppressed guns. Proper following of "making sure your backstop and what's behind it is safe" shooting rules is what keeps people safe, not the noise level of their guns.

    "First and foremost, the report of a gun is useful. The sound alerts other hunters to a gun being used in the area. It’s a warning to use extra caution. There simply is no substitute for it." - So what about a completely silent crossbow? Should they be made illegal?

    "Secondly, we wonder about those who employ silencers regularly. Let’s face it: There are a lot of tools at a hunter’s disposal that help give an advantage, including scopes. All of the gadgets and tools have one purpose: Giving hunters an extra advantage. Yet if hunters have the extra advantage but still aren’t effective, it might suggest they need more time practicing at a shooting range and less time in the field. We worry that silencers would be used by hunters who aren’t very good shots."

    Wonder no more - the hundreds of thousands of shooting and hunting enthusiasts are not all "bad shots" and the reason we use them is we don't want to go deaf while enjoying the great outdoors. We want to be good neighbors to those we share the forests and fields with: not submitting them to noise pollution. We don't like wearing hot, uncomfortable earmuffs which most certainly DO block out safety commands, the ability to hear fellow hunters and people in the woods, and take away situational awareness of our surroundings. We'd rather be closer to nature without blowing out our eardrums. I just bought a hunting license this week in another state (Texas) where hunting with suppressors is legal and my business is welcomed. Paid for it, enriching the state and doing my part for conservation. I'm going to spend thousands of dollars on hotels, flights, rental car, hunting lodge, etc. And that money is going to a state where I'm welcomed and not made to feel like I'm some kind of poacher or criminal for the "crime" of wanting to be a better neighbor to those sharing the great outdoors. I would hope one day Wyoming would come to it's senses and be progressive in this health issue.

    A parting point to think about: I can't take the muffler off my ATV, I annoy my neighbor if I use loud power tools without noise abatement methods, but a gun? Oh, yeah, let's make sure that's as loud as possible for no good reason. I like to say, "If the firearm was invented today, OSHA would mandate it have a muffler."

    What's *good* about more hearing damage and noise pollution?
  2. Wyomingsportsman
    Report Abuse
    Wyomingsportsman - February 08, 2013 4:21 pm
    WyoBob, to bad you can't educate the editor at the Star-Trib but nice try. If the author had bothered to do a little research he would have found that suppressors come under a total different set of rules. First of all they are NFA items and require a $200 tax stamp and much more rigorous background check just to own one. So I am sure poachers are not going to just jump on them. Secondly there is no such thing as a silencer, if the author would have done some research he would have known this. Thirdly, nothing prohibits you from putting a suppressor on a machine gun, besides the simple laws of physics.

    I am a hunter and the only reason I can see for using one is possibly hunting coyotes or other predators.

    So the next time you try to write an editorial, do what every freshman journalist should have learned and do your research. Absolutely shameful Star-Trib!
  3. WyoBob
    Report Abuse
    WyoBob - February 08, 2013 9:00 am
    Since there is no one listed as the author of this piece, I am left wondering who wrote it.

    The pun on "Size doesn't matter" is funny, I will give them that; however, the rest of this article wrought with factually incorrect information.

    First off, HB0005 was defeated early in the session. SF0132 is the exact same bill as was HB0005, it was just assigned a new number as it was introduced into the Senate. The Senate made no changes to SF0132 when it passed.

    Your safety issue is also weak and ill rooted in your argument. There have been 3 separate demonstrations of suppressors. The last one was offered to anyone desiring to come see for themselves how suppressors work. It is a fact that suppressors are designed to reduce the noise of the initial gun blast; much like the muffler quiets the vehicles around us today. A typical rifle produces approximately 170 decibels of noise. A rifle with a suppressor takes it down to about 130 or 125 dba, or to that of a rock concert. Hardly, anything silent about them.

    The sounds they make still will alert people that someone is shooting, and yes, you can even tell the direction of travel.

    You false premise that suppressors give an unfair advantage to hunters is also unfounded. Since hunting rounds travel faster than the sound they make, the animal is either already hit or has been missed by the time it hears to sound from the rifle shot. Yes, even a rifle using a suppressor cannot defy the law of physics.

    You are also inaccurate in your assumption that suppressors will lead to worse shooting. In fact, it makes shooting much more enjoyable; therefore, you will want to do it more often. Shooting more often is what will make some into a true marksman.

    You failed to do much research on this topic as this piece demonstrates. I have been asking for months now and not one single case has been brought forward where someone used a suppressor to illegally take any wildlife. Several states do allow the use for hunting. In fact, some Countries are now making it a requirement for hunters to hunt in their country with a suppressed rifle.

    Don't worry though, the author is probably also afraid of the boogey man as well as the monster hiding under their bed/in their closet
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