At its meeting Jan. 25, the Regulations Committee of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission presented proposed amendments to the 2012-2013 Statewide Hunting Proclamation, including a regulatory change that would expand the use of lawfully-possessed suppressors on firearms while hunting non-nuisance species. This change would help in preventing hearing loss and mitigate noise complaints against Texas sportsmen. Reducing such complaints would help keep hunting opportunities open for the future.
Texas would join at least 14 other states in allowing use of sound suppressors on firearms used to take game animals if the rule change gets adopted. Interest in using noise suppressors on firearms has exploded over the past few years as shooters have become more aware of hearing damage caused by firearms, efforts to reduce noise complaints associated with shooting, and some hunters' fascination with technology and the "coolness" factor of suppressors.
Texas is one of 39 states allowing possession of a firearms suppressor. Current Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulations allow suppressors to be used when hunting non-game animals such as feral hogs, but prohibit their use when hunting game animals such as white-tailed deer.
The agency received requests to remove the prohibition of using suppressors when hunting game animals, and wildlife division staff said there is no biological reason to prohibit use of the noise-reducing devices.
If the Commission approves the change, use of suppressors is not likely to be high because of the cost (several hundred dollars or more) of the devices and the regulatory hassles associated with obtaining one. While Texas allows possession and use of firearms sound suppressors, the devices are heavily regulated under federal firearms laws. To legally purchase a suppressor, which are termed "silencers" by federal statutes, a person must do business with a dealer licensed by federal authorities to handle the devices, meet strict application requirements for a permit to possess the device and pay a $200 transfer tax.
Texas annually leads the nation in sales of firearms suppressors. In 2010, according to a National Shooting Sports Foundation report, about 3,600 of the approximately 22,200 federal transfer tax fees for "silencers" were paid by Texans. To view a copy of this proposed rule change, please click here and scroll down to Committee Agenda Item No. 2, Exhibit A.