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Bill aims to legalize firearm noise suppressors

LIHUE — A bill aiming to legalize the use of silencers on firearms is gaining support from local hunters.

“I think it would be huge for invasive species management because a lot of those animals are herding animals,” said Bronson Bautista, a hunter and owner of Kauai Armory. “In certain areas, once game hear (the sound of a firearm), they get spooked and run. Having something that would cancel or reduce the noise would be huge for any kind of eradicator or conservationist or a hunter.”

If passed, HB 1589 would help hunters further reduce the population of invasive species like feral pig and also reduce the risk of hearing loss from gunshots with the addition of noise suppressors to firearms.

Rep. James Tokioka (D-15), who co-introduced the bill, said legalizing noise suppressors would greatly assist with the population control of invasive species that contaminate watersheds and destroy native vegetation.

“While they’re hunting, the loud noises scare away the other animals when they’re out there hunting pigs,” he said. “Whether it’s the backyard of people’s homes or golf courses or even down at Kalapaki Bay, you see big patches of ground cover; the pigs go in there looking for roots and anything to eat.”

The measure was referred to the judiciary and water and land house committees on Jan. 30.

Walter Paresa, a bow hunter of over 35 years, said the chances of bagging game with a silencer would be beneficial for the hunter and environment.

“That’s the biggest advantage with bow hunting. It’s quiet,” Paresa said. “For hunting, you go with a buddy or father and son or with your wife. With a rifle, if you take a shot, more than likely your hunt is over because it chases everything away from the area.”

The sound emitted from the majority of gunshots registers between 140 and 280 decibels, according to research from the Legislature. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states sounds above 140 decibels may cause hearing damage.

The majority of hunters neglect hearing protective devices, Bautista said.

“Some people hunting are using huge calibers. They’re out there without hearing protection because you need to hear the game,” he said. “If something pops out, you don’t have time to put on some hearing protection and take a shot.”

About 40 states authorize gun owners to use firearms noise suppressors while hunting — with about a million silencers in circulation in the nation.

“For me, I’ve always been a supporter of responsible gun owners,” Tokioka said. “We have the most stringent laws in the country as far as gun owners are concerned. It’s the responsibility of gun owners who have been talking about this measure and thats why I support it.”

Though over hunting or hunting out of season is a concern, Paresa said bag limits imposed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources would regulate game and enforce lawbreakers.

“It’s one per hunter per day or weekend or season. There’s ways of regulating,” he said.

Officials with the DLNR declined to comment on the bill pending a hearing.

Bautista, who mainly hunts wild boar, said the more game hunters take out in certain areas, the more it will benefit that land and environment.

Hunting is a peaceful activity for Paresa and his family.

The addition of silencers on firearms would be beneficial to keiki in the developmental stages of growing, he said.

“I like the idea that it’s quiet and peaceful. You aren’t bothering nobody. You’re up in the mountains. There’s a better feeling when you aren’t bothering the peace,” he said. “It’s nice to have that in the mountains. When you hear a gun going off, it’s not peaceful anymore.”

For Tokioka, silencers would make it easier for hunters to provide for their families.

“By passing a bill like this, I’m certain it will help some of the hunters take care of a big problem we have here on the island, which are the pigs,” he said. “If we give the opportunity for people who want to go hunt these animals and put food on the table, smoke meat is a big part of the lifestyle and culture of local people.”

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