Should firearm silencers be easier to obtain?

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FILE- In this Jan. 19, 2016 file photo, gun silencers are on display at the Sig Sauer booth at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas. Gun silencers like the one used in a recent lethal shooting in Virginia Beach would be banned under legislation that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey introduced Friday, June 21, 2019. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(ABC4) – Senator Mike Lee is advocating to make it easier for firearm owners to obtain silencers.

A new bill — the Silencers Helping Us Save Hearing Act of 2021, or the SHUSH Act — would remove federal regulations on silencers under the National Firearm Act and the Gun Control Act. If signed into law, the bill would also remove current restrictions on the right to own, transport, transfer, and use a silencer.

But what is a silencer and what purpose is it used for?

According to Dave Larsen, store Manager at Doug’s Shoot’n Sports, a silencer or suppressor is “basically a muffler for the end of a gun. It muffles the sound, but does not silence the gun. You will always get that pop when shooting a silencer,” he says.

Larsen often uses the term ‘suppressor’ rather than ‘silencer,’ though the two are interchangeable, he says.

He says he feels that the term ‘silencer’ is a bit of a misnomer since they don’t fully silence a firearm. Suppressors change the way that air pressure leaves the gun so that it sounds quieter, Larsen explains.

Larsen says he doesn’t see the slightest problem with making silencers easier to obtain.

“It protects the shooter’s hearing, making the experience better by making the gun quieter,” he tells ABC4. Larsen says silencers also reduce the recoil of a gun by up to 25%.

He says a shooting range can be an intimidating environment for some due to the noise, and if you needed to shoot a handgun in your home for protection against an intruder, your ears would be ringing.

“With a suppressor, you would still hear it, but it wouldn’t be deafening,” he says.

Larsen says he doesn’t think silencers pose a threat to safety.

“It’s not something a criminal would put on their gun and commit a heinous crime,” he tells ABC4.

Nancy Halden, Communications Director at the Gun Violence Prevention Center, disagrees.

“They’ve been trying to deregulate silencers for several years now and we are opposed to that, and the reason is that silencers have been successfully regulated since 1934… During that time, silencers and machine guns were regulated, and if you wanted to own one, you have to undergo a background check and you have to be fingerprinted and the government has to know that you have one,” she explains. “And that’s because they were used to terrorize people, and they still can be.”

According to Halden, mass shootings occur almost daily now, and you never hear about a mass shooting with a silencer.

“That is because they are successfully regulated. That law has been successful and it shouldn’t be undone,” she states.

Instead of silencers, gun owners can use noise canceling headsets or ear plugs to protect their hearing, Halden explains. And she says she suspects that Senator Lee’s support of the bill doesn’t have to do with protecting hearing.

“One of the major producers of silencers are here in Utah, and this is about more money for the gun industry,” she says.

Furthermore, she says silencers would interfere with the effectiveness of shot spotters, which is technology that listens in urban areas for gun shots and allows police and emergency medical services to quickly get to scene.

“I don’t think it’s a lot to ask hunters and sports shooters just to use noise cancelling headsets, given the huge number of American lives that are lost to gun violence every year,” Halden states.

Dee Rowland, a retired chairwoman from the Gun Violence Prevention Center, agrees.

“Their hobbies should not endanger the general public,” she says.

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