PHOENIX -- Arizonans may soon be able to hunt quieter.
Legislation approved Tuesday by the state House would repeal laws that now prohibit hunters from using any sort of silencer or muffler on their weapons. HB 2728 also would specifically bar the state Game and Fish Commission from imposing any bans of its own.
The 42-14 vote came over the objections of Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, who said it flies in the face of public safety concerns.
"If I have a silencer on a rifle or pistol, I can shoot it off in my backyard and my neighbor won't know about it, even though (firing near a residence) is prohibited by law,'' he said. And Jones, who is a hunter, said the devices make no sense even out in the field.
"If I hear other firearms, I'm able to know there is other activity, other hunters in the area,'' he said. "With suppressors, you wouldn't know that.''
But Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, who crafted the measure, said there are legitimate reasons for hunters to use noise suppressors.
He said weapons with lower recoil are more accurate. Gowan also said that lower recoil means a constituent, a wounded veteran with an artificial shoulder, will be able to go hunting.
Gowan also rejected Jones' arguments that having people firing weapons that others cannot hear can be dangerous.
"I don't understand what he's talking about,'' he said, saying that the attachments do not totally silence the sound.
"You can still hear it,'' Gowan explained. "It's just the decibels aren't enough to damage your eardrums.''
Nor did he believe that it is bad for hunters not to know others may be nearby.
"If you know it's hunting land, it's hunting land.''
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said he's not worried because a hunter needs federal approval before being allowed to purchase a silencer.
Thomas Mangan, spokesman for the federla Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said would-be buyers have to go through a more-intensive screening than what is required simply to purchase a weapon. That involves an application and fingerprints as well as approval of the head of the local law enforcement agency.
The bill now goes to the Senate.