Gun Control

Backers of a Federal Ban on 'Gun Silencers' Claim Only Murderers Use Them

The bill would turn law-abiding gun owners into felons for possessing a product that is almost never used in violent crimes.

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Yesterday Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a bill that would ban the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of "gun silencers," which he blames for helping the perpetrator of last month's mass shooting in Virginia Beach murder 12 people. "The sound of gunshots is what tells you that your life is [in] danger, and that it's time to run, hide, take cover, call the police and help others save themselves," Menendez says. "At the end of the day if you can hear a weapon you might just save a life."

Contrary to the impression left by TV shows and movies, so-called silencers, a.k.a. suppressors, do not eliminate "the sound of gunshots." On average, they reduce the noise generated by a .45 ACP pistol, the kind used in the Virginia Beach attack, from around 157 decibels to something like 127 decibels, which is still louder than a siren or a thunderclap. It's not surprising, then, that "most law enforcement experts say" the Virginia Beach shooter's suppressor "likely had no bearing on his ability to kill so many people in so little time," as the Associated Press noted.

But Menendez thinks he knows better. "What first sounded like a nail-gun ended up being gunfire," he says, suggesting that some victims might have lived if the sound had been louder. Never mind that there is no evidence to support that supposition, or that people have been known to confuse the sound of unsuppressed gunfire with noises generated by nonthreatening sources such as firecrackers or a car backfiring.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is cosponsoring Menendez's bill, insists there is no legitimate reason to own a suppressor. "The only people who could reasonably oppose a ban on gun silencers are criminals trying to avoid detection by law enforcement or mass murderers trying to hurt as many people as possible," he says. "Whether a firearm is being used in a mugging or a massacre, the sound of a gunshot is a warning that helps bystanders get to safety and allows law enforcement to track and apprehend the shooter."

Americans legally own about 1.5 million suppressors, which means they live in one of the 42 states where the devices are legal, have paid a $200 transfer tax, and have passed a federal background check that typically takes eight to 10 months. Based on data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, The Washington Free Beacon's Stephen Gutowski calculates that "roughly .003 percent of silencers are used in crimes each year." Yet according to Blumenthal, every single American who owns a silencer is a criminal.

Why might law-abiding Americans find suppressors useful? As anyone who has visited a gun range can testify, guns are really loud, even when you're wearing ear plugs or muffs. Suppressors provide extra hearing protection, which may be worth the cost and trouble of legally buying them if you shoot frequently, especially if you shoot large-caliber guns. Blumenthal seems to think that explanation is just a cover for criminal activity, which defies logic and math.

Menendez's bill, the Help Empower Americans to Respond (HEAR) Act, would ban not just new sales of suppressors but current possession. Like Donald Trump's extralegal ban on bump stocks, it would transform law-abiding gun owners into felons because they legally acquired a politically disfavored product that is rarely used to commit violent crimes. The text of the bill does not seem to be available yet, but Menendez's summary says it would "authorize a buyback program" and "provide individuals with a 90-day grace period after the date of enactment for individuals to comply with the ban."

Update: The bill is here. People who continue to possess suppressors after the 90-day grace period could be fined up to $250,000 and/or go to prison for up to five years.

NEXT: What If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?

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  1. Why don’t we politician silencers?

  2. “””roughly .003 percent of silencers are used in crimes each year.”””

    I wonder how many of those are manufactured vs homemade.

    1. Most all of them? Today is day 334 of my 8 month wait for a legally purchased suppressor…. I doubt that people with my patience would use them in the commission of a crime.

    2. It’s also strikes me as a bad calculation. The linked article states there are 1.3 million so .003% would be 39 per year but the total was 44 in an entire decade. I think what it was supposed to say was .003% of crimes involved a silencer each year which would make more sense.

  3. Contrary to the popular impression fostered by TV shows and movies, so-called silencers, a.k.a. suppressors, do not eliminate “the sound of gunshots.”

    WHAT

    1. Sad, but true…they change the sound levels from dangerously high to just painfully high…

      1. A 45ACP generates about 160 decibels; a quality suppressor will reduce by about 40 dcbls, to a noise level equivalent to a chain saw or a thunder clap. I often use a chain saw, and while it will not make me deaf [cause immediate damage to my hearing] people can hear it way down my country road. These dip-shits are just defecating out their mouths in an effort to create an impression of what they want to be “true.”

        1. Someone should point out to Senator Mendacious that the decibel scale is logarithmic and ask him what a 40db difference means.
          If he can’t respond, he’s ignorant and should be dismissed.
          If he can’t do the math, he’s not fully human, but only a “tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house” (Heinlein).
          If he actually tries to figure it out, he’ll die before he does and is no threat.
          Someone should invite him to an indoor shooting range where silencers are being use – and offer him no hearing protection.

      2. You misunderstand.

        His “WHAT?” was not the result of incredulity, but deafness.

        He doesn’t use a silencer.

  4. >>> “The only people who could reasonably oppose a ban on gun silencers are criminals trying to avoid detection

    no true law-abider …

  5. Most people are not familiar with the sound of gunfire, and they don’t react when they hear it.

    This old biker I used to know had a story about hearing gunfire in Baltimore several years ago. He dived for cover, and one other man about his age did also. Everybody else on the street just looked around, if they noticed at all.
    The other man asked my friend, “‘Nam?” My friend replied, “No, Watts riots.”

    1. You aren’t flat out saying it but, seeking cover =/= unfamiliar or oblivious to gunfire.

  6. The fact Menendez is still a Senator is more disgusting than anything else that has happened over the last 3 years.

    1. Pervert tryin’ to take my suppressor …

    2. Nearly all democrats in congress being in GitMo.

    3. New Jersey. America’s great experiment re what life would be like had we not rebelled against Great Britain, or had lost the Cold War.

  7. Supressors (like semi-auto centrefire rifles now dammit) are legal, unlicensed and pretty much universal here (New Zealand). They’re regarded as a health & safety thing by most. The range officer gave me a very evil look last time I fired an unsupressed .308.

    Your politicians are even bigger morons than ours – something I can only ascribe to having a larger population of morons to draw from.

    1. Many of them are Kiwi; fortunately we are not subject to your Prime Minister; hot as she is, I’m glad we don’t have her.

      1. We have our own version of MAGA.

        Make Ardern Go Away.

        She is an inspiration to women everywhere that you don’t need talent or accomplishments to become Prime Minister of New Zealand.

  8. Yep a ban on suppressors will stop someone hell bent on MURDER from committing a crime. OR, they will just build a simple one themselves as it is only a threaded tube with baffling! But, I am sure someone inspired to murder will yield to such a powerful law.

    1. Gun laws aren’t made to stop crime.

    2. Effing Idiot NannyStater Donks.

      Guess how many will be turning to The Purolator Solution.

      1. “The Purolator Solution”

        I “hear” it works, at a cost of $3.99 + a cheap adapter.

  9. criminals trying to avoid detection by law enforcement

    All the criminals trying to get away with crimes within earshot of the police?

    If the South side of Chicago teaches any lessons it’s that the ability to silence guns is nothing compared to the ability to silence witnesses.

  10. Watch as the NRA caves and claims this is reasonable. BTW the added length of a silencer makes the guns harder to conceal which is a bigger issue than the silencing part, that is if your goal is to commite crimes with it.

    1. I’m not so sure. The momentum behind liberalizing suppressor laws over the past several years has been considerable, given the public health benefits to shooters, as well as the lack of actual connections with crime.
      So I don’t think this will fall in the same category as “bump stocks” as a bone to throw to the left. Nor do I think there’s the same lefty public outrage on this issue as there was with bump stocks after Las Vegas, given the differing scale of the crimes. The sheer body count of Las Vegas got a lot of people’s attention for demanding “somebody do something”. Virginia Beach seems like a more typical “disgruntled employee” shooting around which the political lines were drawn long ago.

      1. i hope you are right since the NRA has been promoting silencers however they are under attack publicly for some serious internal scandals that they may hope capitulation will silence the outside focus on their internal issues. It won’t but they may think that way.

        1. I’m not entirely clear that silencers (or bump stocks) are in the NRA’s wheelhouse. They aren’t, themselves a weapon and instead would be an effect that should be shielded from illegal search and seizure.
          Not to say that the NRA shouldn’t defend other rights but that 50 yrs. ago there was no “right to privacy” as we understand it now and I’m not entirely sure I agree with RTKBA in that vein. I wholly defend your right to build and own any arms you like, up to and including a nuclear bomb. However, I don’t think you have a right to have a nuclear bomb in your garage or basement *and* conceal that fact from your mortgage lender, neighbors, and pretty much anyone else in the effective radius. Not to equate silencers on handguns with nuclear bombs but to indicate that the NRA has a membership and a mission and that silencers and bump stocks may not be in favor with either the memberbship or the executive committee’s mission despite any given minority opinion no matter how valid. They certainly shouldn’t advocate the banning of silencers, but they always run a risk of becoming (e.g.) anti-Federalism rather than pro-2A.

          IMO, the most interesting thing about the NRA is that it’s traditionally been such a powerhouse and that at any given moment leftists could pretty readily co-opt and destroy the entire organization simply by actively participating in it.

          1. The 2A protects the right to keep and bear Arms. As in armaments.

            Pistols, rifles, swords, knives, clubs, tanks, aircraft, ships, cannons, grenades, bombs, mines, nukes, TNT, lasers, all accompanying equipment, all required ammo, and any armament developed in the future.

            Dont like that, change the constitution.

            1. This country really need to be cleansed of all the Marxist subversives, or ‘progressives’ As they like to canal themselves.

              There is no right to treason.

  11. As someone who has shot a ,22, 5,56,45 and 9 mm suppressor I can say the he’s an idiot. Or a liar. BTW, I go to Blackwing shooting in Delaware ,oh every now and then. Best gun store in Ohio. If you go, get directions to the Hamburger Inn in town. You will thank me.

    1. A politician, a liar, an idiot? But in the spirit of Mark Twain, I repeat myself.

      1. Such redundancy hereabouts.

  12. Gun control is about the control, not the gun.
    We who were ridiculed for saying that after the second, they would go after the first are here to shout “WE TOLD YOU SO!”.

  13. I am surprised OSHA hasn’t mandated suppressors as safety equipment.

  14. Any competent machinist can make a fitting that will screw onto a threaded barrel on one end, and an automobile oil filter on the other, and work just like a silencer, for a while.

    Some will sell them.

    It’s sort’a like George Will’s proposition that if a country wants nuclear weapons, they’ll eventually get them.

    1. Toolmaker’s apprentice here. I sell thread adapters for fifty bucks each to friends and strangers alike. Make them out of 420 stainless or 4140 chrome moly and they’re literally as tough as the barrel itself. Cash only and only in person, though. And of course, only to be used as a solvent trap when cleaning… We wouldn’t want to get any Hoppes #9 on the kitchen table, now, would we?

  15. I reasonably oppose a ban on silencers and I would guess I am not any more a criminal than Blumenthal. And I’m SURE I am less of a criminal than Menendez.

    1. You’re also probably not a stolen valor scumbag like Blumenthal, claiming service in Vietnam that never happened. However, you are probably *less* of a criminal than Blumenthal as well. I mean I’m sure that fucker’s done *something*, right? 😉

      1. Most progressives, which is nearly all democrats, should be in prison based on existing anti sedition laws.

  16. Its not so much that politicians and their supporters learn about firearms from TV, its that voters learn about politics from TV.

  17. Outlawing guns will not stop criminals from getting them Outlawing silencers will not stop criminals from from getting them. But if a person wants to kill some one with a gun quietly that person would use something like a .22 caliber. With a weapon like that one would get close so there would be no chance of missing and no body would be the wiser.
    But both the weapon and the silencer if not made in the US would be imported from places like Mexico by gun runners just like they do drugs.

  18. It’s starting to feel awfully 1776 up in here…

    1. I think we’re more in 1772 or 1774 still… There’s a few years yet before we get to full on 1776… But I suspect it is coming.

  19. All gun control laws are unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

    It should be clear to every American Patriot that the courts, legislatures and executive officers are violating their oaths and the US Constitution in allowing violations of the 2nd Amendment.

  20. “The sound of gunshots is what tells you that your life is [in] danger, and that it’s time to run, hide, take cover, call the police and help others save themselves,” Menendez says.

    Note he left out “fight back.”

    “The only people who could reasonably oppose a ban on gun silencers are criminals trying to avoid detection by law enforcement or mass murderers trying to hurt as many people as possible,” he says.

    “The only people who could reasonably oppose a ban on automobile mufflers are criminals trying to avoid detection by law enforcement or people with road rage trying to hurt as many people as possible,” he says.

  21. So interesting aside, I stumbled onto a random video awhile back on YouTube that was pretty cool.

    Basically, with some calibers of weapon, if you buy sub sonic ammo, and pair with a good silencer, you can DAMN NEAR get the thing to be “movie” silent with some guns. Pretty cool stuff. Of course you have a lot less stopping power because of the weak ammo, but if one really wanted to be as quiet as possible, it does go a long way with pistol calibers.

  22. > like Donald Trump’s extralegal ban on bump stocks

    So, they’re just following the lead of our glonous leader? Why does Reason hate Trump do much?!?!

  23. The Left will fight tooth and nail to preserve any gun law now on the books, no matter how whimsical or useless that law might be.

  24. […] it earlier but here’s a detailed analysis and rebuttal to this stupid legislation, that would make me a […]

  25. […] ReasonYesterday Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a bill that would ban the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of "gun silencers," which he blames for helping the perpetrator of last month's mass shooting in Virginia Beach murder 12 people. "The sound of gunshots is what tells you that your life is [in] danger, and that it's time to run, hide, take cover, call the police and help others save themselves," Menendez says. "At the end of the day if you can hear a weapon you might just save a life."Contrary to the impression left by TV shows and movies, so-called silencers, a.k.a. suppressors, do not eliminate "the sound of gunshots." On average, they reduce the noise generated by a .45 ACP pistol, the kind used in the Virginia Beach attack, from around 157 decibels to something like 127 decibels, which is still louder than a siren or a thunderclap. It's not surprising, then, that "most law enforcement experts say" the Virginia Beach shooter's suppressor "likely had no bearing on his ability to kill so many people in so little time," as the Associated Press noted.The only thing a suppressor does is reduce the report of a gun being fired from something that will damage your hearing permanently to something that will damage your hearing temporarily. OSHA regulations force people to wear hearing protection inside computer labs because of the noise of the fans keeping the computers cool; why should the noise of a firearm going off be any different? […]

  26. This bill is another bill introduced by a Democrat based in ignorance of the truth. A suppressor ( there is no such device like a silencer except in movies) only reduces the sound of a gunshot from above the Pain threshold down to the level similar to a jackhammer. Anyone who has been near a gun when fired and not wearing hearing protection knows the immediate sensation is pain, and then ringing in your ears for 10-15 minutes. A gunshot, ANY GUN SHOT, is loud. The reason this lunatic used a suppressor was to protect himself so he could keep shooting. Suppressors are already class III items which require a special firearms license to possess which is expensive and involves a extensive background check. It is much more likely the suppressor used was made by the shooter which means this law is meaningless. However why would anyone be surprised that a criminal like Menendez would want to do something illegal and unconstitutional.

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