North Carolina just made hunting with suppressed firearms legal, and the usual suspects have gotten the vapors, convinced that assassins will now lurk around every corner, and that poachers will pick the woods clean.
Of course, neither fear is founded in reality.
While suppressors have long been legal under federal law in North Carolina, the federal process of acquiring them is absurdly cumbersome, requiring a $200 federal annoyance tax/registration and a delay of many months. This is compounded by the fact that many local sheriffs (especially in urban areas) refuse to provide LEO sign-off, forcing people who want them to go the route of gun trusts, which the NC Attorney General’s office hold to be illegal but unchallenged. In short, suppressors in NC are federally legal, but in in a gray area according to the state depending on how you acquire them, and a pain in the butt to acquire no matter how you slice them. There are simply not a statistically significant number of people who have been willing to deal with the aggravation of getting suppressors for there to be much of an issue regarding their use.
That’s a shame. Suppressors should be as easy to get as gum, with no forms to fill out, and no federal or state harassment. At most, they should require a simple NICS check, and treated no differently than any other firearm. They are safety items, and should be strongly encouraged, not restricted.
I’ve only used suppressors on a handful of occasions with the folks at Templar Custom, from a small one designed for .22LR rifles and pistols, to beefier versions for centerfire rifles, such as .308 bolt-guns and AR-15 rifles. The advantages to situational awareness, in accuracy, and in saving hearing are obvious, as are the benefits to non-shooters who live near ranges or hunting areas.
Personally, I could see immediate advantages to widespread suppressor use on most long-arms. When we have an Appleseed shoot at the home range in Ramseur, it isn’t uncommon for us to have 25+ shooters on the line. Even though the majority of shooters shoot .22LR, having more than two dozen firearms going off for hours each day over two days, with each shooter firing 400 rounds or more over the course of a weekend, is going to take a long-term toll on your hearing, despite your best hearing protection efforts. Most of the instructor cadre uses electronic hearing protection, and that seems relatively adequate for the .22 LR guns, but it is simply impractical and unsafe for us to “double up” and use earmuffs and plugs when running a firing line. We need to be able to hear to call and get an immediate response to ceasefire commands as a safety issue. Making shooters deaf by requiring doubled-up hearing protection to handle the firing of centerfire rifles like AR-15s and similar rifles often found at the range is absurd.
Likewise, hunters are better off when they can hear, whether they are shooting rimfire or centerfire arms. It is best when they don’t have to wear any hearing protection at all so that they can use their hearing to alert them to not just the sound of game animals, but other humans in the woods. It’s beneficial for all who enjoy the outdoors when hunters are able to maximize their hearing.
It’s too bad people lack the basic conceptual grasp of the good that suppressors do for all people, from hunters, to target shooters, to non-shooters, such as property owners and hikers.
Suppressors should be removed from the list of restricted items in the NFA, and their advantages trumpeted by both shooters and non-shooters alike. As some have taken to saying lately, its only common sense.