The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has lifted a 57-year-old ban on noise-suppressing devices for hunters. But the law on silent devices did not pass without some loud resistance.
Eliminating the ban on suppressors means some Florida hunters will make a little less noise in the field, but according to their opponents, that will only make them more dangerous.
Several hunting groups, suppressor manufacturers, and the National Rifle Association have applauded the law change, saying it will help preserve hunters' hearing and allow them to hunt closer to residential areas.
Supporters of the suppressor ban, like Patricia Brigham of the gun safety committee for the League of Women Voters in Florida, believe that quieter firearms will be more difficult to avoid and therefore pose a greater danger to civilians.
"If neighbors don't hear gunshots in the area, how are they going to stay out of the way?" said Brigham in an interview with the Sun Sentinel. Critics also say it is merely to help the gun industry to sell more accessories. However, when the measure was introduced last Friday, no one came forward to speak against it.
The law in Florida already allows hunters to use suppressors when hunting armadillos, feral hogs and other game when on private land. The new change will expand the use of suppressors to hunt deer, wild turkey, quail and other animals. Some hunters prefer suppressors as a hearing safety device, and many hunters and shooters believe suppressors can even improve their accuracy.
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With the lift of the Florida ban, suppressors are now allowed for hunting in 33 states. Several others, including California, Illinois and New York, maintain a strict ban.
Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say that states that permit suppressors do not report an increase in hunting incidents. They point out that suppressors do not make a gun completely silent. In fact, the gunshot of a deer hunting rifle equipped with a suppressor is still louder then a jackhammer.
Supporters of the measure also say the original ban on suppressors stems from misconceptions created by Hollywood movies, where criminals would often use "silencers" on their guns. Crime has undoubtedly influenced legislation on suppressors--they have been strictly regulated since the passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934, which was passed following crimes by Prohibition-era gangs.
Under the law, in order to buy a suppressor, one must pass an extensive federal background check, pay a $200 fee, and register the suppressor with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Because of these extensive regulations and the high cost of suppressors, they are not very common in Florida, being owned by only about 40,000 residents.