Raleigh, N.C. — This fall's hunting season in North Carolina could be quieter than usual. A bill signed into law this week allows hunters to use silencers, beginning Oct. 1.
The provision originally passed the Senate as its own bill in April. After it failed to gain traction in the House, it was rolled into the gun rights omnibus House Bill 937, signed Monday by Gov. Pat McCrory.
Its chief proponent, Sen. Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes, said the change will help protect hunters' hearing and make it easier for hunters to shoot animals in herds without alerting surrounding animals.
Many people voiced concern about the measure, including the North Carolina Sheriffs Association. Even some of Randleman's fellow Republicans said they worried about the safety of hikers, farmers and other people who might not realize hunters are shooting nearby.
However, Randleman said, suppressors don't completely silence a rifle shot; they just muffle it. She also pointed out that the devices are expensive and carefully controlled at the federal level, involving the payment of a special tax and fingerprinting.
It will be up to local sheriffs to issue the permits for the silencers.
Sheriffs Association counsel Eddie Caldwell said Wednesday that his group didn't actively lobby against the silencer provision in the final version of the gun bill. They were fighting another provision that would have repealed the state's requirement for a pistol purchase permit.
“We decided to focus our efforts on retaining the pistol purchase permit law,” Caldwell said. The repeal was not included in the final version of the gun bill.
Caldwell said he's concerned that more suppressors or silencers could lead to more thefts of the devices by criminals.
"The issue, of course, is if a gun is discharged, if the sound is completely suppressed, it make it difficult for witness to tell from which way the sound came or for people to hear it and run away,” he said.
“There’s already a law that makes it very difficult to purchase a suppressor,” Caldwell said. “On balance, there’s some concerns with them but not to the degree with the pistol purchase permits.”