Multiple anti-gunners in the Senate are moving to ban suppressors following the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Help Empower Americans to Respond (HEAR) Act is being introduced by Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (NJ), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Richard Blumenthal (CA) and Tim Kaine (VA).
“We were reminded how dangerous silencers can be a few weeks ago, when a gunman used a .45 caliber handgun fitted with a suppressor to kill 12 Americans in Virginia Beach. What first sounded like a nail-gun ended up being gunfire,” Menendez said in a statement. “The sound of gunshots is what tells you that your life is danger, and that it’s time to run, hide, take cover, call the police and help others save themselves. At the end of the day if you can hear a weapon you might just save a life.”
“Dangerous gun silencers, like the one used in the Virginia Beach shooting earlier this month that killed 12, don’t belong in our communities,” Feinstein said. “This legislation is a commonsense proposal that will save lives.”
“The only people who could reasonably oppose a ban on gun silencers are criminals trying to avoid detection by law enforcement or mass murderers trying to hurt as many people as possible,” Blumenthal said. “Whether a firearm is being used in a mugging or a massacre, the sound of a gunshot is a warning that helps bystanders get to safety and allows law enforcement to track and apprehend the shooter.”
“We need to be doing everything in our power to reduce gun violence and improve the safety of our communities. At least one survivor of the tragic shooting in Virginia Beach, where the shooter used a silencer, said that the gunfire sounded more like a nail gun," Kaine said. "Banning silencers won’t eliminate gun violence, but this is a reform that would help law enforcement locate active shooters and save more lives,”
In addition to an outright ban, the HEAR Act would:
• Authorize a buyback program for silencers using federal Byrne JAG grants;
• Provide individuals with a 90-day grace period after the date of enactment for individuals to comply with the ban;
• Provide limited exceptions for certain current and former law enforcement personnel, for certain Atomic Energy personnel and purposes, and for certain authorized testing or experimentation.
Gun rights groups have opposed the outright ban of suppressors, also known as silencers. In fact, the firearms industry pushed for the Hearing Protection Act of 2017, which would have deregulated the firearm accessory. As it currently stands, suppressors are highly regulated. Currently, anyone who wants to purchase a sound suppressor must undergo the National Firearms Act's application process, pay a $200 stamp fee, a background check and wait a long period of time, generally 9 months to a year. The Hearing Protection Act of 2017 would have removed suppressors from the NFA and treated it as a regular firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA).
Pro-gun groups are generally opposed to this type of legislation because more people can benefit from suppressors, especially if someone participates in the shooting sports. In fact, an audiologist explained the long-term benefits suppressors provide to hunters, shooting sports competitors, and even the average, everyday gun enthusiast.
"I treat hearing loss and I see the ill-effects of hearing loss every day with my patients,” audiologist Steven Wade previously said. “Once somebody is exposed to loud sounds and they have damaged their hearing — whether it be gunshots or other types of loud impulse sounds — that cochlear becomes damaged and it’s irreversible damage.”
Pro-gun groups made their position known.
Mark Oliva, the Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, slammed Menendez and friends for pushing falsehoods about suppressors:
Senator Menendez is purposefully misrepresenting suppressors. Suppressors are the most highly-regulated firearms accessory today. Senator Menendez knows the truth is suppressors reduce the sound of a muzzle blast from a decibel level equal to a jet taking off to that of a jackhammer, not quite the nail gun he’s claiming similarities to. He could have easily chosen to witness this for himself if he accepted National Shooting Sports Foundation’s invitation to hear suppressors in the Capitol Police gun range two years ago. Conveniently, Senator Menendez, nor any of his staff, responded to that invitation.
Suppressed gunfire is clearly audible and will gain the attention of anyone within the vicinity. Suppressors are legal for ownership in 42 states and 40 for hunting. More than 1.5 million suppressors are owned and operated for lawful purposes every day.
Basing national firearms policy on fiction spy movies is hardly the way we should legislate and our nation’s more than 100 million law-abiding firearms owners deserve better from their elected officials. The senator is ignoring clear facts; that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives considered recommending moving suppressor regulation from the 1934 National Firearms Act to the 1968 Gun Control Act because of the rarity in which they are used in crimes. From 1995-2005, less than 0.1% of homicides in federal court, an infinitesimally low 0.00006% of felonies in California and a mere 0.1% of armed robberies involved a suppressor. The ATF noted in an unpublished 2017 White Paper that an average of just 44 cases involving suppressors per year over a 10 year period were recommended for prosecution. In fact, many of the European countries which Senator Menendez looks to as an example of strict gun laws require the use of a suppressor and they are available over the counter in hardware stores.
This is a disturbing exploitation of a tragedy when the senator would be better served using his platform to provide real solutions for safer communities across America, instead of vilifying and attempting to deny law-abiding American citizens their rights.
"GOA is opposed to the National Firearms Act and its current restrictions on suppressors, and GOA will oppose any legislation, like the Menendez bill, to ban them. Suppressors are safety devices that act more like a car muffler, rather than the Hollywood notion of a 'silencer,' which is a myth," Gun Owners of America's Senior Vice President told Townhall. "So while suppressors don’t reduce the sound of a gun shot to a whisper, as so deceptively portrayed in many movies, they are a health benefit, which is why the CDC recommends that people use suppressors to protect their hearing."
"The favorite word of anti-gun rights Democrats is 'ban' it. First it was handguns, then it was semi-auto so-called 'assault' weapons. Then they added standard capacity magazines to the list. Now it is suppressors. And they also want to ban gun shows and advertising for firearms and ammunition. If they could they would ban gun owners from voting," Second Amendment Foundation Founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb told Townhall.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court refused to hear a multi-state challenge to firearm suppressor laws in Jeremy Kettler v. United States, which challenges the constitutionality of the National Firearms Act of 1934, specifically in relation to firearms suppressors.
The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to Townhall's request for comment.