PHOENIX – Some state lawmakers are out to guarantee that hunters can use silencers. Others want to eliminate size limits on hunters’ gun magazines. One wants to outlaw hunting remotely by computer.
Those are among more than a dozen bills addressing where, when and how people go about hunting in Arizona.
Rep. Jack W. Harper, R-Surprise, said rules set by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission have eroded hunters’ rights over the years.
“People used to hunt for food, and now it’s out of reach,” he said.
On Wednesday, as a member of the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee, Harper voted for a bill that would prevent the Game and Fish Commission from adopting rules that interfere with the use of silencers, or sound suppressors, by hunters.
Supporters of HB 2728, authored by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, noted that ownership of a silencer must be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“These are the folks who are willing to follow an extremely difficult process to become law-abiding possessors,” said Brent Gardner, state and local lobbyist for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “These are not the type of individuals who you would expect to engage in unlawful activities up to and including hunting.”
Gardner said suppressors reduce noise complaints from the public and prevent hearing loss.
“There’s a saying that you can always hear old hunters because they can no longer hear themselves,” he said.
Twenty-six states have similar laws, according to the NRA.
The committee endorsed the bill on a 6-0 vote with three members absent, sending it to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.
On Monday, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee endorsed a bill that would eliminate limits on the magazine capacity of any firearm approved for hunting.
Game and Fish Commission rules currently limit shotgun magazines to no more than five shells and semiautomatic rifles to no more than five cartridges, for example.
Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, author of HB 2640, said under current state law someone who isn’t a hunter can carry a gun with a large magazine while walking alongside a hunter.
“Yet the hunter himself that’s done everything that he’s required to do legally, we’re being told he’s not smart enough, he shouldn’t be allowed to carry more ammunition in his weapon,” he said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”
Larry Audsley, regional director with the Arizona Wildlife Federation, which represents sportsmen and advocates for wildlife, said any such change should go through the Game and Fish Commission.
“Marksmanship and deliberateness is something we value in hunting,” he said. “We’re going to have a lot of wounded game. A lot of us feel it’s not in the best long-term interests of hunting.”
The committee voted 6-1 to endorse the bill, sending it to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.
Meanwhile, Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, is pushing three bills that would restrict hunting. That includes HB 2536, which would prevent shooting animals via website.
Kari Nienstedt, Arizona state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said a Texas-based website, for example, has sold the opportunity to shoot animals remotely and then offered to stuff the animals.
“The hunt could be anywhere,” she said. “Somebody would generally lure an animal to a spot where it was used to being fed and shoot it.”
Patterson said that while there have been no examples of hunting via website in Arizona it’s important to have a law on the books.
“To shoot an animal through an Internet command completely violates the principles of fair chase,” he said.
Patterson also has proposed prohibiting at night (HB 2539) and adding state penalties for hunting an endangered species (HB 2537).
None of the three bills has been scheduled for committee action.