As much of America woke on Monday morning to news of the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, congressional Republicans are starting their week with an eye on legislation that people worry could make mass shootings even more dangerous.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that House Republicans are believed to now have enough votes to roll back nearly 80 years of federal regulations on firearm suppressors—commonly referred to as silencers. A vote on the measure, which was originally called the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 and has now been folded into a larger bill called the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, could come as early as this week.
The proposed legislation has been criticized by gun control advocates as posing a serious and unnecessary risk to public safety.
“What [a suppressor] does is it disperses the sound, so you can’t identify where the sound is coming from,” Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson explained to the Chronicle. “It puts both law enforcement and the public at risk.”
NPR reported similar concerns back in March (emphasis mine):
“This act is reckless,” says David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at Americans for Responsible Solutions and a retired 25-year veteran of the ATF. “And it’s a threat to public safety.”
Chipman describes himself as a sportsman and gun owner. And he says that guns don’t sound like guns when a suppressor is being used. They also reduce the flash at the end of a muzzle.
In combination, he says, a silencer could confuse the police or the public during a shooting and allow “an active shooter to not give away their location.”
Gun rights groups—backed by Donald Trump Jr.— argue that the removal of these regulations is simply a protective measure to ensure gun owners don’t lose their hearing.
“It’s a health issue for me,” Trump Jr. said in a video of him touring a Utah-based suppressor manufacturer earlier this year. “It’s just a great instrument. There’s nothing bad about it all. It makes total sense. It’s where we should be going.”
The president’s son also added that silencers could help get “little kids into the game.”
But making it harder to hear gunshots isn’t only the item on the GOP’s agenda. As the Chronicle notes, the full 144-page SHARE Act also contains language that would allow concealed weapon carriers to bring their guns into jurisdictions that have stricter laws against carrying hidden firearms.
In other words, Republicans want to make it easier to move guns from state to state and make it harder to actually hear when someone shoots a bullet.
It should be no surprise to learn that the National Rifle Association has thrown its weight behind the SHARE Act, and will likely continue to do so.
Update, 4:02 PM: In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, GOP sources have confirmed to Politico that congressional Republicans will not bring the silencer bill to a vote for the time being.
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