Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon’s fourth district, which includes Corvallis, is one of four Democrats joining 159 Republicans in cosponsoring a House bill to decrease restrictions on the purchase of firearm silencers. The Hearing Protection Act would eliminate background checks and the $200 tax on silencer purchases.
The measure, which is part of a bill called Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement act, also preempts any state and local laws regulating silencers. This affects 10 states with such laws. Oregon is not one of them.
Arguments from Both Sides
Silencers can reduce the sound of gunshots by 30 decibels. Without them, most guns exceed 140 decibels, the level at which hearing is permanently damaged.
Critics of the bill like Americans for Responsible Solutions, which includes law enforcement and community groups, note that restrictions on silencers are there for good reasons.
In a memorandum from the Law Enforcement Coalition for Common Sense they write, “Silencers mask the sound of a gun, changing the sound into one not easily recognized as gunfire. As a result, assassination-style murders become easier, and bystanders may not know to alert first responders.”
Proponents of the bill say that lessening restrictions wouldn’t change their use in violent crimes, and the restrictions are burdensome for gun owners who only hunt or go to firing ranges.
Stephen Halbrook of the National Rifle Association told The Hill, silencers, or suppressors, protect the hearing of law-abiding gun owners and are easy to make.
“If you want to make one, now you can do it, and a person who would not be dissuaded from committing a murder by capital punishment potentially is not going to worry about a National Firearms Act conviction for non-registration of a suppressor,” Halbrook said.
For now, other options for protecting hearing include earplugs or earmuffs. Some, made especially for hunters, are programmed to only block out loud noises so that quieter sounds come through.
By Andy Hahn