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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Rifle Suppressor Bill Favored By Some Hunters, Opposed By Game Wardens

The U.S. Senate failed to pass four separate gun control amendments Monday.
Several firearms with detachable suppressors, from top to bottom: An Uzi, An AR-15, A Heckler & Koch USP Tactical, A Beretta 92FS, and a SIG Mosquito

The Montana House is considering whether hunters should be allowed to use rifles fitted with sound suppressors, a move that’s favored by hunting organizations but opposed by game wardens.

Suppressors are not the silencers we often see in movies but they do cut down the sound, or “report” from a hunting rifle. Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association says suppressors are allowed in 34 other states because they help protect a hunter’s hearing, in situations where it’s not practical to wear earplugs or earmuffs.

"Hunters who are out hunting depend on being able to hear what’s going on, and so they can’t wear ear protection all the time or they can’t hear the wind blowing or the game rustling in the trees or whatever.  And so they have to settle for the best that they can do, which would be a suppressor," Marbut said.

Game wardens don’t want hunters to be able to quiet the sound of their weapons. George Golie with the Montana Game Warden Association told the House Judiciary Committee this just makes it easier for people to hunt illegally.

"That gunshot that people hear out there is evidence that someone is either trespassing, or they’re shooting when they shouldn’t be," said Golie. We think that this bill will hinder game wardens in protecting the resource on private property and just opens up the door for illegal poaching and trespass to private property."

Governor Bullock applied that same argument in 2013, when he vetoed a bill identical to this one. Two similar bills have already passed this session.  The Senate just approved and sent to the Governor a measure allowing suppressors for hunting mountain lions and wolves. Another bill already on the governor’s desk would allow suppressors for hunting rabbits, squirrels, and other small game.

Hunting bills that fell by the wayside this year include one that would have allowed crossbows to be used during archery season, and two others to relax the rule requiring hunters to wear bright orange vests, by making them optional, or requiring hunter orange only for those who are younger than 18.

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