COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Members of the Ohio House of Representatives have approved a local politician's proposal to allow hunters to use silencers on their guns.
In a 76-15 vote Wednesday, house members voted in favor of House Bill 234. The legislation will now move to the Senate for further consideration.
Silencers, or suppressors, are used to muffle or diminish the sound of a firearm. While they’re illegal for hunting in the state, suppressors are legal for Ohio residents to own.
Their popularity has skyrocketed in Ohio in the last year. The state ranks fourth in the nation for the most registered suppressors, with more than 25,000 legally owned, according to 2013 data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
State Representatives John Becker (R-Union Township) and Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) introduced the bill in July after they were approached by hunters who claim to have hearing damage caused by their non-suppressed firearms.
“This bill only has to do with the hearing loss to hunters,” said Becker.
Jeff Mann, a 54-year-old Hamilton resident who has been a hunter for more than 40 years, said he now has trouble hearing because of damage caused by using non-suppressed guns.
“Every time you shoot without hearing protection, it damages your hearing,” said Mann. “It’s like people who go to a lot of rock concerts. “
Mann, an assistant manager at Target World in Sharonville, and many other hunters choose not to wear hearing protection while they’re in the woods.
“You have to use all five senses to be a true hunter. It’s a skill,” he said. “You may not be alone and you need to know if you hear somebody moving around you or off to your side. Every year there are hunters killed because instead of identifying their target and what is beyond it, they’ll hear something and it may be another hunter.”
Bill opponents have the same fear but worry that the suppressor—rather than the hearing protection—would cause the problem.
“Our concern is that [the suppressor] disguises the fact that there is a firearm being shot some place,” said Amy Pulles, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Pulles worries that hunters won't be able to hear each other and that hikers won't have warning if a hunter is near.
Local state representatives Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton Heights) and Roland Winburn (D-Dayton) voted against the legislation Wednesday, although no representative spoke against the bill on the House floor.
"I think it's dangerous," said Winburn in February. "This is a misuse of the noise suppressor and it places other hunters who are actually on the field hunting in a dangerous precarious situation."
Winburn expressed concerned that farmers wouldn't be able to hear when poachers are on their land.
Brandon Kern, director of policy at the Ohio Farm Bureau, said the bureau does not have an official position on the issue.
A House committee advanced the bill last month with little opposition after representatives and their aides heard a demonstration of the weapons shot with and without a suppressor.
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