DeLauro pushes to keep gun silencer rules in place; Connecticut gun rights group says devices needed for safety
HAMDEN >> An bill that would make it easier to buy a gun silencer is an act of cowardice on the part of Congress, according to U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who spoke out against it Monday at the Hamden Police Department.
The Hearing Protection Act, introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, would remove silencers from the list of accessories governed by the National Firearms Act, eliminating the need for background checks and fees.
“What I view is the gun lobby’s latest attempt to usher in massive and dangerous rollbacks of gun violence prevention. We know all too well the pain that is caused by gun violence in our communities,” DeLauro said.
The purpose of the bill is to help prevent firearm-related hearing damage from the noise of a firing bullet, commonly referred to as “shooter’s ear.”
“The Hearing Protection Act was recently introduced in Congress and the name is intentionally misleading,” DeLauro said. “It is not a bill that will not ease the cost of hearing aides or expand access to ear exams through affordable health care. In fact, it is a bill to make it easier to sell gun silencers.”
A silencer is a device that attaches to the barrel of a firearm to reduce the noise generated by shooting the weapon.
But a more accurate term for it may be a suppressor, because it suppresses, not silences, the noise, said Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson.. The league works to support the rights of gun owners and the right to bear arms.
“I believe there has been a misconception by the public for a very long time when it comes to noise suppressors,” Wilson said.
“I think a lot of people conjure up images of a hit-man from a violent movie or a television show,” he said. “The reality about these devices is that they dampen the loud noise to a safer decibel level. They especially benefit shooters that train and shoot in competitive events.”
Silencers are not commonly used in crimes, he said, but are favored more by people who shoot recreationally and in competitions and are exposed to the noise from repetitive shooting.
“There is virtually no illegal market where violent criminals are seeking these items to commit crimes,” he said.
DeLauro disagreed, saying the process now in place to obtain a silencer is necessary to assure public safety.
“Removing silencers from the National Firearm Act would be deeply concerning,” she said. “The bill in my view would potentially put lives in danger, and this would have a chilling effect on public safety.”
The bill would remove silencers from the list of NFA regulated firearms and accessories and eliminate the stringent background check requirement, DeLauro said, as well as eliminate the $200 tax on them and reduce the wait time for a background check.
“The dangers of more easily accessible silencers far outweigh the phony issue of hearing loss,” DeLauro said. “According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, there is no evidence of a public health issue associated with hearing loss from gunfire. If Congress wants to address real health issues, it should turn its focus to the epidemic of gun violence which is ravaging our country,” she said, pointing to a 2013 incident where four people were killed in Los Angeles by a gunman using a silencer and one in which a man who was suspected of planning a mass shooting using silencers was arrested in Milwaukee last year.
“We need to do everything we can to assure that our law enforcement officials can do their job efficiently. Putting more silencers on the street would only further complicate their already monumental efforts,” she said. “The gun lobby does not want to recognize the dangers associated with these devices. They are interested in one thing, and that’s profit.”
“The gun industry has the problem that, with President Obama gone, gun sales have seen a significant decline,” said Ron Pinciaro, executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence. “So the gun lobby is having a $200 off fire sale to pump up the sale of silencers and guess who is paying for it? We are, the taxpayer. They’re getting us to fund the giveaway by taking away the $200 transfer tax. They can do that by having a gun lobby, a compliant Congress in both houses and a willing White House.”
DeLauro said she see that silencers have been a huge marketing success for gun corporations. “The gun lobby argues that the existing fee and the waiting period for silencers is an onerous burden on gun owners. This does not seem to be hurting sales,” she said, adding that the number of silencers owned rose from 285,287 in 2010 to 902,085 in 2016. “In fact, silencers are the fastest growing segment of the gun industry,” she said.
“Public safety, when it comes to proposals like this, must prevail,” Hamden Police Chief Thomas Wydra said. “There is a path right now to obtaining a silencer or a gun suppression attachment - let it stay in place.”
It shouldn’t be easy to buy a silencer, Wydra said. “It should be difficult, there should be a vetting process when it comes to seeking to obtain such an attachment,” he said.
“More silencers, more suppression devices out in the public way would likely mean that they land in the hands of the wrong people. What we don’t need is victims of gun violence out in our neighborhoods not getting the medical treatment they need as soon as possible,” he said. “We need for bystanders to know that a gun has been fired, they need to be able to get to safety as soon as possible, and we need police and EMS to be notified as soon as possible. That won’t happen if we have gunshots muffled. This proposal is not in the best interest of gun safety as far as I’m concerned.”
But Wilson said “People have this image that they’re going to silence the guns completely and nobody is going to know where a shot came from and it’s just not that way.”
“If this were something that were to be a likelihood for it, you would see criminals stealing them or making them because really all it is is a tube with some baffles in it,” Wilson said. “There’s no market for this with criminals.
“It’s good for those who shoot a lot that are listening to shots all day,” he said. “Even with ear protection, it would help people involved with competitive shooting or who train a lot. It will save their hearing over time.”