At a meeting in Key Largo, Friday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to remove the ban on using silencers on pistols and rifles for hunting game animals despite opposition by gun control groups.
With repeal of the ban, instituted in 1957, sportsmen in the state equipped with National Firearms Act-compliant suppressors, also referred to as silencers, will now be able to hunt all legal game species including deer and wild turkeys. Using suppressors for non-game animals and by shotgun users was already allowed.
“This morning, the FWC took a major step towards making hunting a safer experience in Florida,” Knox Williams, President of the American Suppressor Association told Guns.com soon after the vote. “Sportsmen and women in the state spoke, and the Commissioners listened. We are thrilled that Floridians will now be able to use suppressors in the field, regardless of what type of animal they are hunting.”
The rule change was proposed earlier this summer and evaluated at open meetings in which the Commission gave its preliminary approval. However mounting opposition from gun control groups including the Florida chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence, is perceived to have lead to a last minute delay in the vote, originally planned for Thursday.
Among the gun control advocates’ primary argument was that the increased use of suppressors by Florida sportsmen would lead to an unsafe environment in the state’s woodlands, with hunters and hikers not able to hear nearby gunshots.
“Bottom line is this has nothing to do with safety. This is about helping the gun industry sell additional products,” Ladd Everitt, communication director for CSGV told Guns.com following the vote. “Marion Hammer [the National Rifle Association’s lobbyist in the state] said ‘Do it’ and as usual, Florida obliged while asking few if any questions about the impacts on public safety.”
For her part, Hammer, who is the president of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida and past president of the National Rifle Association, explained to Guns.com Friday that, “Florida’s suppressor ban was merely a small carve-out that, for 57 years, has prohibited the use of beneficial technology. It only banned the use of suppressors for hunting deer, gray squirrels, rabbits, wild turkeys, quail and crows.”
Continuing, Hammer pointed out that “Using suppressor-equipped rifles, pistols and shotguns for all other hunting has been legal all along. There was no legitimate or logical reason to keep the carve-out ban.”
Following the successful vote to repeal the suppressor prohibition, the Commission authorized an Executive Order, EO 14-32, to lift the ban immediately and allow hunting with suppressors to begin at once. With that, using suppressor-equipped rifles, pistols, and shotguns is now legal for all hunting in Florida. The Sunshine State is now the 32nd in the country to approve such policy through either mandate, regulatory change, or legislation.
Industry groups praised the FWC’s vote Friday.
“NSSF thanks the FWC for acting to approve the use of suppressors in hunting. Their action today is of immediate benefit to hunters and the general public alike,” Michael Bazinet, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation told Guns.com.
Currently there are nearly 600,000 registered suppressors nationwide, with Florida collectors holding some 40,000 of those. The state ranks third in ownership of these sound moderating devices, with only Texas and Georgia having more. Both of those states already allowed hunting by otherwise lawfully suppressor-equipped sportsmen.
As such, the devices, once the realm of fictional Hollywood portrayals, are now moving into the mainstream. Now, the estimated 242,000 hunters in Florida have a new option.