If you’re planning to take a walk in the woods sometime soon, or stroll through your own property during hunting season, you’d better think twice because silencers are now allowed on guns.
LD. 942, amended from a previous version of the bill to include permits and penalties, is now law and allows the use of “Firearm Noise Suppression Devices in Hunting.” Those who framed the bill’s language were careful not to use the word ‘silencer’ since it has a negative connotation, bringing to mind assassins or hit men.
Most people might have thought that LD 942 was not such a good idea for all kinds of valid reasons. Certainly the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife was concerned to the point that they opposed the bill. Here is the testimony of Captain Shon Theriault of the Maine Warden Service representing the Department:
“Under current law it is illegal to hunt with or possess any firearm fitted with a device for deadening the sound of an explosion. L.D. 942, if passed, would remove this prohibition.
On the average, we convict forty or more people per year for discharging a firearm too close to a dwelling. This includes the use of shotguns in the spring during turkey season, and the use of large caliber firearms in the fall during deer season. The crimes have been reported because the homeowner or neighbor heard the shot. This is extremely brazen behavior from individuals who know the firearm makes a loud report. One can surmise that a change in legislation to allow silencers for hunting purposes will only encourage more of this illegal behavior.
Generally, discharge of a firearm causes a loud report that all in the immediate area can hear. This cautions those in the area, which can prevent possible safety issues. It also alerts landowners that hunters are present on their property. A .308 caliber firearm equipped with a silencer and using subsonic ammunition makes little to no noise at all.
Each year, game wardens successfully prosecute numerous cases of exceeding the bag limit on deer. Often there is more than one deer killed by a hunter because multiple deer were present at the same time. More often than not, the second deer was killed because it did not run off even after the sound of the gunshot was heard, leading the hunter to make a poor decision when caught up in the moment. If there is an allowance to use silencers for shooting, thereby causing even less deer to run off an initial gunshot, it may only create scenarios where an unethical hunter kills an extra deer.
We have violators shooting deer illegally, at night and during the day utilizing .22 caliber firearms, crossbows, and bows and arrows, all in an effort to hide the sound of a firearm, to ultimately conceal their illegal activities.
Just recently we summonsed a group of hunters in the mid-coast area who were specifically killing deer in people’s door yard with the use of crossbows. Crossbows were utilized for their ease and stealth like properties. Legalizing the use of silencers for hunting would only encourage more of this illegal activity. . .
. . .Finally, I would encourage the committee to consider making the possession of a silencer for hunting purposes an aggravating factor in the conviction of any wildlife related crime.”
You’d think that after such powerful testimony by a wildlife professional as well as an officer in the Maine Warden Service, that LD 942 would have died in committee. Instead, it was passed unanimously. Why? Because every one of the four senators and five representatives who sponsored or co-sponsored the bill is either a member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), highly rated by that organization, or both – not to mention that of the thirteen voting members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee which heard the bill, at least nine are members of SAM, and one of the co-sponsors is the chair of the committee as well as one of SAM’s Directors.
Big guns were also brought in to support LD 942. The Virginia – based National Rifle Association sent its Maine State Liaison – a much more neutral term than ‘lobbyist’ and one suggesting a long term continuous relationship – to testify, something we should remember when we consider the subject of out-of-state influence.
The end result is a poacher’s dream that will make the job of game wardens extremely difficult because a shot that is silenced is not heard. It also means that landowners wouldn’t know if or where someone was shooting on their property so they can protect their family and alert the wardens about illegal activity that affects the state’s animals that are the natural resource for which we are all stewards.
Despite the objections of Maine’s wildlife agency, and thanks to the SAM – supported legislators who proposed the bill along with their NRA allies, legislation has been passed that is both unwise and unsporting. It is also a striking example of indifference to public safety as well as the enforcement of laws that govern and protect our wildlife.