Hunters in North Carolina were recently given a new tool for when they head to the woods this fall.
Governor Pat McCrory signed a sweeping gun rights bill July 29 that allows suppressors to be legally used in the taking of wildlife, among other increases to gun owners’ abilities.
The legal use of suppressors for hunting and taking wildlife will take effect with the rest of the bill Oct. 1. Prior to this bill a person could own a suppressor but could not use it for hunting.
Suppressors, often called “silencers,” muffle the sound of a shot and eliminate some of the noise associated with shooting a firearm.
They are attached to the end of the firearm’s barrel by threads, like fitting a nut onto a bolt.
Unlike the ones in the movies, a suppressor does not totally eliminate noise in and of itself. Further noise reductions can be gained through subsonic ammunition and other measures, but a gun will still produce noise through the firearm’s mechanical action.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission issued a press release August 7 informing the public of the new regulations in response to the legal changes.
“This statutory change is not reflected in the 2013-2014 North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest, which was published by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission prior to the legislation being passed,” according to the release.
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms administers the procedure to own a firearms suppressor,” said Major Todd Kennedy, field supervisor for the Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. “The Wildlife Commission does not have any involvement in the process to obtain a suppressor.”
“As far as the possession and stuff, it really doesn’t fall under the wildlife laws of the state,” Master Officer Toby Butcher, of the NCWRC enforcement division in Yadkin County, said.
Butcher said purchasers “would be going through, like the sheriff’s department or some other means to legally acquire the suppressor. Our changes basically just make it legal for them to hunt with them.”
Yadkin County Sheriff Ricky Oliver told The Ripple that the sheriff is not the official in charge of giving the green light for a suppressor purchase.
“They don’t apply to…I don’t make the decision on that really. They apply through the federal ATF offices but we are notified…each time they file for renewals they come in,” Oliver said. “We do keep a file here locally on everyone who’s licensed in the county.”
Oliver likened the process to that of acquiring a fully automatic firearm.
“The ATF regulates the suppressors, so it is an ATF process that they have to go through - much like when someone’s applying for a license to run a firearms business of if they’re applying for a fully automatic weapon. Any of those things have to go through them,” Oliver said.
The process is a long one and filled with background checks and substantial costs, but Oliver says the initial paperwork is fairly easy to come by.
“It is a federal application. I think it’s something they can pretty much get online and then they fill out a bunch of paperwork,” Oliver said.
Then the real work begins.
“That’s where they pay like a tax stamp. I mean it’s not a cheap venture for them to do. But there’s all types of regulations around getting a fully automatic weapon or a suppressor or a license to deal in firearms, and all that is federally regulated,” Oliver said.
The ATF notifies the sheriff’s office in the county in which an applicant lives, Oliver said.
“So I see those forms and often sign off that I’ve been notified, but the actual application and everything is reviewed by [the ATF],” he said.
Israel Moran of Foothills Firearms and Ammo, formerly Yadkin Armory in Hamptonville, said suppressors were also available by drawing up a ‘trust.’
“You go to an attorney’s office and you’ll draw up a living, revocable trust,” Moran said. “You’ll sign that, pay $200, or your stamp fee or taxes on it, and then you’ll pay for your suppressor.”
The legalization of suppressors has drawn both criticism and excitement by different sides, but Oliver said the number of permits coming across his desk has not increased as a result of the legalization.
“I can’t say that I have [seen increased applicants], not yet. This change in regulations for the wildlife may make a difference but so far we haven’t seen it,” Oliver said. “Now we’ve seen quite an increase since Sandy Hook as far as purchase permits and carrying concealed weapons permits, which we do process here. We have a huge increase in those, but I can’t say that I’ve seen any kind of change in the federal regulations.”
Sheriff Oliver offered his own opinion on suppressors and hunting but said the law was the law.
“Really haven’t given it a lot of thought at this point, I mean I know that’s part of the new bill. I guess the best way to answer that is I go along with whatever law they came up with,” Oliver said. “I’ve been able to hunt for years without a suppressor, but there are reasons I guess for different type situations.”
Master Officer Butcher said hunting would not change much from other years even with the addition of suppressors.
“Our main priority is safety, and it’s really not going to be any different than it’s always been. The suppressor is going to minimize the report of the rifle. Of course the danger part is still there regardless of whether the report is minimized or the rifle makes a normal sound.”
The hunter with a suppressor hunting at night or out of season is one aspect of suppressor-aided hunting that wildlife officers now have to face.
Master Officer Butcher said the possibility was there for misuse but it was unlikely because suppressors were cost-prohibitive.
“I’m sure that to a certain degree people with the intent of breaking the law may use a suppressor,” Butcher said. “With the money and the process they have to go through to acquire a suppressor it’s…the way I’m looking at it, it’s not something that everybody can go to Walmart and buy.”
Butcher thinks background checks and considerable costs will prevent many from abusing the newly-granted right to a suppressor. His, and the enforcement division’s, goal is to keep doing what they do best.
“Our main goal is just to make sure that people are making good decisions and being safe,” Butcher said.
Suppressors take quite a bit of time to apply for and must have a gun that has it’s barrel threaded, either from the original manufacturer’s factory or from a gunsmith. Those interested should prepare now if they hope to have the ability to hunt with a suppressor this season.
To contact Taylor Pardue call 336-835-1513 ext. 15, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.