Yesterday, Gov. Steve Bullock took a major step forward towards legalizing the use of suppressors for all lawful hunting in Montana when he returned House Bill 250 to the legislature with proposed amendments. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kirk Wagoner (R-75), originally pertained only to the use of a suppressed firearm “when hunting wildlife not protected by state or federal law”. Gov. Bullock’s proposed amendment seeks to expand the scope of the legislation to allow the use of a suppressor on a firearm during all lawful hunting. In order to become law, HB 250 must now go back to the legislature and pass concurrence in both the House and the Senate.

In 2013, Gov. Bullock vetoed HB 205, a similar measure which sought to legalize full game suppressor hunting. Since his initial veto, the ASA has engaged the Governor’s office to educate him on the facts and merits of suppressor hunting. In a letter to Speaker Knudsen (R-34), Gov. Bullock explains why he now supports the initiative:

“It is time for Montana to join the clear majority of states that allow the use of suppressors for hunting. All of the western states do so, except for California. The public perception of suppressors as the same thing as silencers, where the assassin quietly dispatches his victim, no longer holds true. Suppressors mitigate the sound of a shot, but do not silence it.

The use of suppressors for hunting, when hunters cannot wear ear protection because they need to be aware of their surroundings, can help protect against hearing loss. This is especially true for our younger hunters, even those who are not actually hunting but are accompanying their parent in the field.

I understand the concerns regarding the risks of increased poaching and do not take this lightly, but other states have not found this to be the case.”

Gov. Bullock is correct in all of his assertions. There are currently 35 states which allow hunters to use legally possessed suppressors in the field. Last year, AlabamaFloridaGeorgiaLouisiana, and Ohio all enacted similar pro-suppressor hunting reform. Of the 35 states in which suppressor hunting is legal, Montana is the only state which restricts their use to certain types of animals. If the legislature concurs with the Governor’s amendments, HB 250 will fix this.

There are many benefits to using a suppressor, including:

  1. HEARING PROTECTION: Noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus are two of the most common afflictions for recreational shooters and hunters. Everyone knows that gunfire is loud, but very few people understand the repercussions that shooting can have on their hearing until it’s too late. Suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by an average of 20 – 35 dB, which is roughly the same as earplugs or earmuffs. By decreasing the overall sound signature, suppressors help to preserve the hearing of recreational shooters, hunters, and hunting dogs around the world.
  2. SAFER HUNTING: Most hunters do not wear not wear hearing protection in the field because they want to hear their surroundings. The trouble is, exposure to even a single unsuppressed gunshot can, and often does, lead to permanent hearing damage. Suppressors allow hunters to maintain full situational awareness, while still protecting their hearing. The result is a safer hunting experience for the hunter, and for those nearby.
  3. NOISE COMPLAINTS: As urban developments advance into rural areas, shooting ranges and hunting preserves across the country are being closed due to noise complaints. Although it can still be heard, suppressed gunfire helps mitigate noise complaints from those who live near shooting ranges and hunting land.
  4. ACCURACY: Suppressors reduce recoil, and help decrease muzzle flinch. These benefits lead to improved accuracy, better shot placement, and more humane hunts.

The American Suppressor Association would like to thank Gov. Bullock for his open-minded approach to suppressor hunting. We call on more elected officials to follow his example of taking the time to become educated on the realities of suppressors. Relying solely on myths and misconceptions is a dereliction of duty.

We will keep you posted as the amended HB 250 moves through the legislature for concurrence.