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Senate bill would allow hunters to use silencers
SB 301 aims to curb noise complaints in rural areas
A group of gun owners shoot their firearms downrange at Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area in Baldwin. A proposed Senate bill would allow hunters to equip a silencer to the end of their rifle or shotgun. - photo by Patrick Stoker

BALDWIN — A proposed Georgia Senate bill would end the state's ban on silencers for hunting firearms to make for a quieter hunting experience.

Senate Bill 301 is sponsored by state Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee. It would allow hunters to equip their rifles or shotguns with silencers to cut down on complaints about the constant bang of firearms in rural areas where hunting is a regular occurrence.

In particular, it would allow hunters to quietly rid areas of tormenting wild hog populations.

"As our growth patterns have changed and we're having more and more residential properties infringing on hunting properties," Bulloch said, "if you have a silencer on your hunting gun, the noise would not disturb neighbors as bad. This doesn't really have anything to do with fair chase. It's about trying to be respectful to people in residential areas."

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which Bulloch co-chairs. Sen. Ross Tolleson, a Republican from Perry who co-sponsored the bill, is the committee's chairman.

The committee unanimously approved the bill Wednesday and it will now require approval from the rest of the Senate before it is placed into law. If it becomes law, hunters would need a federal permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to legally possess and use the silencer, which costs $200.

Currently, Georgia law permits the use of suppressors for all shooting activities except for the hunting of game.

Many hunters say the use of a suppressor wouldn't create an unfair advantage because sound is still emitted. A suppressor can also reduce recoil and muzzle rise, which would allow for increased accuracy.

"It doesn't create any unfair advantage," said Scott Youmans of Atlanta. "I don't see that at all. There's still 130 (decibels). That's still pretty loud, but at least it isn't in the range that it damages your hearing."

Michael Queen, range safety officer at the Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area in Baldwin, said using a suppressed firearm would not be any different than hunting with a bow.

"I like it because if somebody is hunting close to your home or when somebody is having a get-together they don't hear that explosion," Queen said.

Deer have keen senses of smell and hearing and would still be capable of hearing and smelling a gunshot, Queen said.

"Once the trigger is pulled it should be over at that point one way or another," he said.

Youmans said the greatest advantage of using a suppressor is to protect long-term hearing.

"You want to protect your hearing the most and you can't wear ear muffs while hunting out in the woods," Youmans said. "And yes, you're only taking one shot, but one shot out of a 30.06 (caliber rifle) is 165 dB. That can do damage."

"I'm only 43 and I don't want to be wearing hearing aids at the age of 50," he added.

Kevin Saunders of Dawsonville, however, said he doesn't believe a silencer is necessary when deer hunting because it's considered a single-shot sport. He said silenced weapons could also pose a risk to other hunters in the area.

"With as many people that are in the woods deer hunting you would want to know where the shots are coming from in case you didn't know someone was there," Saunders said.

But Saunders said suppressors can be necessary for controlling wild hog populations.

"You need a noise suppressor or they just scatter so fast you can only get one out of the 300 that are tearing up your property," he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.