New Hampshire suppressor law expansion advances

A bill that would allow the use of suppressors in hunting in the Granite State has passed out of a House subcommittee and is moving forward.

The measure, backed by Republican lawmakers, would legalize the use of federally registered sound moderating devices for hunting and, if it becomes law, would make New Hampshire the 38th state to lift such restrictions. The proposal advanced to the full House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee after a positive vote from a subcommittee work session last week.

“The main reason I put HB 500 in was to protect hunters hearing, ” Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, sponsor of the legislation, told “There are several good side effects that have been brought up from others that support HB 500.  Reduces gunshot noise for the homes nearby, reduces the high pitch noise which causes hear loss and many others benefits.”

Burt’s legislation, the Hunter’s Hearing Protection Act, filed as HB 500, repeals provisions in state law that that prohibit the use of silencers and suppressors while taking game. The devices, regulated by the National Firearms Act, are already legal in the state, and according to the latest data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, over 7,200 are registered in New Hampshire.

Burt explains in bill findings the use of the devices in hunting will help lessen the hearing damage many sportsmen suffer from as they lessen the report of a firearm greatly. This in turn will help new and inexperienced hunters hear directions in the field from mentors who are hunting alongside them, which could help bring more into the sport.

Burt is hopeful that state conservation commissioners, at their upcoming meeting on Sept. 9, will back the legislation.

“At first, sadly, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department was against HB 500,” the lawmaker said. “The Director said it would increase deer poaching. The supporters of HB 500 have proven that is not the case. I have talked to fish and game people in other states and they told me that is not the case. Sadly, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department was the only fish and game department in the country that was against suppressors being used during hunting in the states that allow suppressors use.  Suppressors are allowed in New Hampshire but not during hunting.  HB 500 will change that.”

The measure has the backing of the National Rifle Association as well as suppressor industry trade groups, who say the state has been a tough nut to crack.

“The legalization of suppressor hunting in New Hampshire has been a multi-year effort which is finally starting to pay off,” Knox Williams, president of the American Suppressor Association told Wednesday. “Last week’s subcommittee vote marked the first time that we’ve seen positive movement by the legislature on HB 500.”

For Williams, it all boils down to safety. “Hunters in the Granite State deserve the opportunity to enjoy their time in the field without risking their hearing. We are extremely confident that we will be able to legalize their use in 2016,” he said.

The traction in New Hampshire is further sign that use of suppressors is becoming more mainstream in recent years as states ranging from Florida and Louisiana to Minnesota have legalized their use in hunting.

Nationwide suppressor registration figures through February, released last month, show an unprecedented 39 percent rise in the number of silencers on the books to nearly 800,000 currently held on the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

A committee vote in New Hampshire is expected in coming weeks.

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