By Jim Siegel
and Alan Johnson
Despite opposition from the League of Ohio Sportsmen, which called it a “bad bill with good intentions,” a House committee Tuesday passed a bill that would allow Ohio hunters to use silencers.
Larry Mitchell Jr., executive director of the organization, said the goal of allowing hunters to use silencers should be accomplished through the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s rule-making process. He said that route would be quicker and more flexible than passing legislation and putting it into law.
The bill, he said, “opens the door to the General Assembly to take away the authority of the wildlife professionals to write rules that address both the safety of our angling and hunting community but also address wildlife management principles.”
“With a few calls, this could all be handled in a few weeks,” he said. Asked if talks with the Division of Wildlife about changing the silencer rule could continue if the bill passes, Mitchell said the agency is generally reluctant to take on a new rule if a bill is moving.
Supporters say the use of silencers will help protect hunters from hearing damage.
On the other side of the issue, about 50 members of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence marched to the Statehouse on Tuesday to lobby for action on another piece of legislation, House Bill 31, which would set standards for safe storage of firearms. The bill stalled after just two hearings.
Ohio Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, sponsor of the bill, said losing one child killed by an unsafely stored gun is unacceptable.
“If you don’t trust your child with knives, hot water, lawn mowers and running cars, why would you trust them with a .45?”
A violation of the law would be a third-degree misdemeanor.
On the silencer bill, the Buckeye Firearms Association played host to about 20 legislators and aides in February at the Black Wing Shooting Center in Delaware to demonstrate the effect of placing a silencer on a .45-caliber pistol and .308-caliber rifle.
Some legislators were unfamiliar with the impact of a silencer and were concerned their use would make it difficult to know if someone is hunting nearby, or illegally hunting on private lands.
An audiologist from Ohio State University recorded a 15 percent or more reduction in volume with a silencer. It was enough, he said, to protect ears from damage but still loud enough to be heard from several hundred yards away.
Asked by Rep. Gary Scherer, R-Circleville, whether the bill addresses what happens if silencer technology improves, Mitchell said approving silencers by rule would allow for more flexibility to deal with such changes. Scherer voted “no” on the bill.
Knox Williams, president of the American Silencer Association, said the equipment will never be able to suppress the sound a bullet makes when it breaks the sound barrier.
Williams said 29 states allow game hunting with a silencer, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana.
Mitchell said the bill would affect fewer than 1 percent of hunters, but Williams argued that once silencers are approved, that number will rise. Silencer sales in recent years have been booming, he said, and Ohio is now the fourth-largest silencer market in the country.