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VOL. 41 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 28, 2017

Watch out, pigs, Tennessee House OKs silencers on guns

By Sam Stockard

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Tennesseans who want to shoot feral hogs won’t have to worry about scaring the critters now that they have permission to put a silencer on their rifle.

The House of Representatives passed legislation 74-18 Monday ending the state’s prohibition on possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing or selling silencers. The Senate previously passed the measure 28-1.

Dubbed the “Tennessee Hearing Protection Act,” the bill passed after one representative pointed out some states have encouraged the use of silencers for killing hogs because they won’t scatter after the first shot is fired.

Rep. Kent Calfee, a Kingston Republican, told lawmakers feral hogs spread disease and cause billions of dollars in crop damage every year nationwide.

Calfee explained he has seen video showing how the use of a silencer keeps hog hunters from scattering the pack on their first shot if they use a silencer, enabling them to kill more of the animals.

“They’ve not come to my county yet, but they did attack a vineyard in northwest Knox County,” Calfee said.

Earlier in the short-lived debate, Rep. Micah Van Huss, a former Marine, said shooters usually don’t want to use a silencer because it lessens the range of a weapon. However, he said he knew of Marines who used 2-liter bottles to silence guns and pointed out several other household items can be used as silencers.

Goins agreed, saying steel wool and even oil filters can silence a gun, anything that cuts down on the amount of gas escaping into the barrel when the weapon is fired.

“This bill is to allow lawful gun owners to enjoy the sport without disturbing their neighbors, without disturbing themselves and to have some extra safety precautions,” said Goins, a Morristown Republican and veteran of the Marines and Army.

Democratic Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville, an Army veteran who has opposed several efforts to soften weapons restrictions, tried to amend the bill by requiring a state background check on silencers, the same Tennessee requirement made for purchasing a weapon.

“Silencers are used and have been used in very serious crimes,” Stewart said, noting an incident in which a police officer went on a shooting rampage in 2013 and another in which a mass shooting took place at a Masonic Lodge in Wisconsin.

Goins, though, said federal law already requires a much more extensive background check than the state would, a waiting period of eight to 12 months and a large fee.

Stewart countered there is an effort to do away with the silencer background check at the federal level and that Tennessee needs to ensure those stay in place for silencers, regardless of what happens at the federal level.

Stewart’s amendment was defeated in a 71-24 vote, and discussion ended a short time later, leading him to issue a statement accusing the Republican supermajority of “squelching” debate.

“Any citizens who can imagine what it will be like to be a police officer and to potentially face a concealed assailant using a silenced weapon can see what an unwise and irresponsible bill this is,” Stewart said in his statement.

He argued cutting off debate and forcing a vote without thorough discussion about the potential danger of silencers “does a disservice” to people across the state.

Sam Stockard can be reached at sstockard44@gmail.com.

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