Ohio General Assembly Passes ‘Shall Sign’ and Suppressed Hunting Bill [UPDATED]

Late-morning light, Indian Point Park, Lake County, Ohio


[UPDATE2: On Friday, Governor John Kasich signed H. 234 into law.]

[UPDATE: After the Senate vote in favor of House Bill 234 as amended, the Ohio House this afternoon voted to concur with the Senate and to pass the amended legislation. H. 234  now heads to the desk of Governor John Kasich, who is expected to sign it into law.]

Ohio state senators voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would end the state’s ban on hunting with suppressed firearms. Taking up legislation that was approved by their counterparts in the Ohio House a year ago, the Senate’s Civil Justice Committee advanced the bill to the floor by an 8–2 vote. After debate on the floor of the Senate, legislators voted in favor of the legislation by a vote of 24–6. Because senators approved a substantially amended version of the original House bill, the new version of the proposed law will return to the House for consideration before going to the governor’s desk for final approval.

This latest progress on the bill follows an educational and lobbying effort by the American Suppressor Association, the National Rifle Association, and the Buckeye Firearms Association.  The path to success with this legislation even included a shooting range trip for state legislators. Lawmakers were briefed by an audiologist on the sound reduction achieved by silencers and then given the opportunity to participate in a demonstration shoot of suppressed weapons.

Advocates for the measure argued that hunting presents a unique use case for silencers. Jim Irvine of the Buckeye Firearms Association was cited by the Columbus Dispatch as arguing that hearing protection is an important consideration any time guns are being fired. Because hunters need to maintain situational awareness, sometimes while waiting long hours for the right shot, it is not always practical for them to don wearable hearing protection before a shot. Putting a silencer on the firearm is a good way to reduce the risk of hearing loss for hunters who are not wearing ear plugs or muffs.

Opponents of the bill voiced objections similar to those heard in other states that have recently moved to roll back prohibitions on silencers. Some lawmakers expressed fears that criminal acts by poachers and other criminals would be enabled by the proposed changes, others claimed that they might endanger law enforcement officers.

Besides legalizing the use of silencers in taking legal game, the bill would also clarify concealed carry reciprocity rules and other changes to Ohio’s concealed carry law. Additionally, the bill includes language that would require that local chief law enforcement officials “shall accept and process” federal forms relating to the making or transfer of firearms in much the same manner as prescribed for concealed handgun permits.