With public support moving towards more restrictions on guns and gun ownership following the recent mass shooting at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, the NRA is doggedly surging ahead pushing a new bill aimed at making it easier for gun owners to buy silencers.
According to The Hill, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) introduced the benign-sounding “Hearing Protection Act” last week that would legalize silencers in states where they are currently banned.
As might be expected, the bill has the NRA’s fingerprints all over it.
“Suppressors significantly reduce the chance of hearing loss for anyone who enjoys the shooting sports,” Chris Cox, executive director of National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, said in a statement.
The NRA is joined in supporting the bill by National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the American Suppressor Association whose members would profit from the bill’s passage.
According to GOA executive director Larry Pratt, “Silencers are not used in crime, nor would they be if more widely available,” adding that it is “not only unconstitutional, but embarrassing” that there are restrictions on silencers.
Gun silencers are prohibited in a handful of states under current law, with 37 states allowing them for gun owners who have gone through a more rigorous background check.
The gun silencer bill would speed up the process by permitting anyone who passes a basic firearms background check to purchase a suppressor and would waive the $200 application fee that is paid to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Gun control advocates see easier access to silencers as a tool for criminals who want to conceal crimes, and a danger to the public.
“We believe that the level of background checks currently in place for suppressors is appropriate to keep them out of the wrong hands,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement, adding,”The problem here is that our current laws don’t do enough to keep guns themselves from falling into dangerous hands.”
Critics also point out that the general public would be put at risk by hunters dampening the sounds of their shooting nearby.
“It’s only a matter of time until a silenced round injures or kills an innocent person who had no opportunity to hear the report of gunfire and find cover,” explained Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Silencer supporters dismiss those concerns, saying suppressors don’t completely eliminate noise as seen in the movies.
There’s a misconception that gun silencers are completely silent,” explained Josh Waldron, CEO of SilencerCo, whose company is the largest manufacturer of gun suppressors in the U.S. “It’s not like the movies, where you can’t hear the shot. It’s louder than a car door slamming and about the same as a jackhammer.”
According to The Hill, the NRA-backed bill immediately picked up 10 co-sponsors after being introduced.