End restrictions on using gun silencers? Seriously?
How inconvenient for the gun lobby. They’re having difficulty getting one of their favorite bills through Congress. The hearing on the Hearing Protection Act was cancelled in June because U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, got shot playing baseball on the day it was scheduled. The bill would remove common-sense restrictions on the sale of firearm silencers that have protected public safety for the past 80 years.
In truth, the bill should be called the Gift to the Gun Lobby Act.
In an effort to slip it by the American public without notice, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., tucked the language from his original bill, H.R. 367, into the innocuous sounding Sportsmen's Heritage And Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, H.R. 3668. It sailed out of committee on a party-line vote. But just when it looked like the coast was clear — the bill was to be brought to the House floor for a vote as early as this week — the worst mass shooting in U.S. history scuttled plans once again.
It’s only a matter of time before the bill comes back. Congressman Jim Himes, D-Conn., already disgusted with meaningless moments of congressional silence, reported that just two days after the shooting, backroom conversations were taking place “about the decent interval of time necessary before voting on legislation.”
The move to deregulate silencers is just another cynical ploy by the gun lobby to pump up industry profits at the expense of your safety. About the acquisition of silencer manufacturer Gemtech, the CEO of Smith & Wesson admitted as much, saying, “We view this acquisition as somewhat opportunistic…at a time when the market is particularly soft.”
The measure is anything but innocuous. Silencers endanger both law enforcement officers and the public. In active-shooter situations, silencers make it more difficult for police to protect themselves and for bystanders to take cover because they can’t tell from which direction the shots are coming. An article in Tactical Weapons noted that with silencers, “you’ll think the fire is coming from exactly the opposite of where it is,” going on to say, “this has caused the Taliban to run towards incoming fire.”
Imagine what might have happened if the Las Vegas shooter had silencers. Do silencers reduce the muzzle flash that also aids in locating gunfire?
“Yes, yes they do,” reports The Truth About Guns.
Silencers also diminish the efficacy of gunshot detection systems that identify the location of gunfire in real time. The technology is used in both Hartford and New Haven to quickly and accurately direct police and emergency service personnel to crime scenes. In 2016, ShotSpotter detected nearly 75,000 shots fired in more than 90 cities around the country.
The current requirements for purchasing silencers, including registering with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), have made them virtually absent from the commission of crimes. On average, the ATF has recommended prosecution for crimes using silencers less than 50 times each year over the past decade. Although stringent, the current law does not inhibit sales. As of February, 1.3 million silencers were registered with the ATF, a growth of 400,000 in just the past year.
When the respectable amount of time passes the bill stands a good chance of passing in the House; 161 Republicans and four Democrats co-sponsored the original bill. Although our Connecticut congressional delegation strongly opposes the bill, they need support from constituents. Call or email your members of Congress today; find them at contactingcongress.org.
Jonathan Perloe is the director of programs and communications for the group CT Against Gun Violence.
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