The President Elect’s son is making some news this week, this time as a vocal proponent for the relaxation of regulations on suppressors for shooters. For those of you who are a bit confused already, you probably know them better by their Hollywood name of silencers. This has turned into another one of those unending arguments over semantics in technology, but it’s really not on the same level as the clips vs. magazines debate because those are two different things. Even the industry doesn’t take the distinction too seriously, as you can tell by the name which SilencerCo chose for themselves.
Suppressors are currently regulated at a level which is more severe than even firearms themselves. Even if you happen to live someplace where you can get one you’ll generally wind up paying a fortune for the privilege and will be waiting quite a while to get it. Trump jr., along with many other Second Amendment enthusiasts, would like to see that changed, and a new GOP administration along with majorities in Congress may allow it to happen. But the justification being offered has nothing to so with the normal arguments over suppressors and their supposed usefulness in committing crimes. They’re arguing that they are needed to protect the hearing of shooters. (Washington Post)
Now the gun industry, which for decades has complained about the restrictions, is pursuing new legislation to make silencers easier to buy, and a key backer is Donald Trump Jr., an avid hunter and the oldest son of the president-elect, who campaigned as a friend of the gun industry.
The legislation stalled in Congress last year. But with Republicans in charge of the House and Senate and the elder Trump moving into the White House, gun rights advocates are excited about its prospects this year.
They hope to position the bill the same way this time — not as a Second Amendment issue, but as a public-health effort to safeguard the eardrums of the nation’s 55 million gun owners. They even named it the Hearing Protection Act. It would end treating silencers as the same category as machine guns and grenades, thus eliminating a $200 tax and a nine-month approval process.
Treating this as a health issue is proving provocative in political circles as you might expect. Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center is quoted in the article as predicting “outrage” over the measure. The problem here is that too many people are quick to conflate two very real but separate issues.
There really shouldn’t be any argument over the idea of the government working to facilitate hearing safety measures. They do it all the time and have been in that business for years. If you’re using any sort of tool, device or other equipment in your working environment which generates too much noise, OSHA requirements for hearing protection kick in immediately. By the same token, the government regulates how much noise most equipment can make when it is practical and cost effective to do so. From that perspective, if firearms can be made quieter you would think that the government would be in love with the idea. (Well… except for the ones who hate guns and want them eliminated to begin with.)
The second, but also valid question is the one of crime. Do criminals actually use suppressors to commit crimes the way you frequently see in mafia movies? Well, it’s has happened once in a blue moon, but not generally, no. That might be due to their relative unavailability, their bulky nature or the fact that they actually don’t “silence” most guns at all. Yes, they can reduce the decibel level a fair amount and can probably save your hearing, and that’s great. But I’ve yet to run across one that could “silence” anything bigger than a .22 to the level of a blow dart the way they are often portrayed in movies and television shows.
My thinking on this subject has shifted over time as I’ve had the opportunity to do more research and learn about this somewhat niche industry. I used to be a bit more cautious – probably because I’ve watched Goodfellas too many times – but at this point I’m really not seeing the need for these regulations any more. Let’s move the Hearing Protection Act forward and get this done.