Police in Spokane, located in eastern Washington state, will soon have all 181 rifles equipped with suppressors, something the department says will protect officers and civilians from hearing damage. The move is said to protect the department from workers compensation claims and civilian lawsuits.
“It’s nothing more than like the muffler you put on your car,” Lt. Rob Boothe, the range master and lead firearms instructor for the department, told the Spokesman-Review.
According to City Council President Ben Stuckart, residents wanted to know why the police department needed suppressors.
“I had a couple citizens contact me about why the police are using suppressed rifles. I thought it was appropriate to get information," Stuckart said.
The Spokane Police Department's SWAT team has utilized suppressors since 2013.
The Spokane County Sheriff's Office had considered utilizing suppressors as well but Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was concerned about public perception, especially in a cop-verses-citizen era.
“Those are serious concerns. Especially in this day and age of things that are going on with the public and law enforcement,” Knezovich said. “We protect our people to the best that we can. At the same time, we need to be cognizant of having the public understand why we would purchase that piece of equipment."
The Spokane City Council approved the $115,000 expenditure last month.
The agency now has to pay a $200 tax to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as part of a federal regulation on suppressors.
Confirming What We Know
The National Rifle Association (NRA), along with a host of other pro-gun groups, was a strong advocate in favor of the Hearing Protection Act of 2017. They worked to educate the public on suppressors.
In fact, the gun industry as a whole decided to stop calling them "silencers" because people assumed that a gun was completely silenced by the accessory, which is the furthest thing from the truth. People began using the term "suppressor" because that's exactly what happens when the accessory is added. The round's sound isn't as loud but it's still present.
The Spokane Police Department's use of suppressors – and their reasoning – reiterates everything pro-gun advocates have been saying for years. There's no reason to not have a suppressor for target practice or for police officers. If a gun is going to be fired all necessary precautions should take place. And protecting your hearing is one of the most important ones.