The movie fades in. A lone gunman approaches, his pistol has a long cylinder on it, clearly a “silencer” that he soon uses to fire two shots into his target. The sound is little more than a puff, barely audible in relation to all the other sounds you hear in the film.
For most people, that’s their experience with suppressors, better known as silencers. In many peoples’ minds, “silencers” eliminate any and all sounds and make it possible to kill someone and have people in the same room not even realize a shot was fired. But that’s fiction, not reality.
As a result of this misunderstanding, many people are terrified of the fact that law-abiding citizens can get suppressors at all. Unsurprisingly, at least one lawmaker is prepared to capitalize on those fears.
Gun silencers are designed to suppress the sound of gunfire from unknowing victims and reduce the chances they can run, hide, and call the police.
I'm reintroducing the HEAR Act to prevent these deadly devices from making shootings even more dangerous.https://t.co/aTTZyHZmHP
— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) April 27, 2023
Senator Bob Mendez is once again pushing legislation, the HEAR Act, that would ban suppressors. In a statement, the New Jersey Democrat says:
“Gun silencers are devices designed for a very specific purpose – to suppress the sound of gunfire from unsuspecting victims and reduce the chances they can run, hide, take cover, and call the police during an active shooter situation. It is well past time that we pass the HEAR Act, legislation that would prevent armed assailants from using deadly devices that only make incidents of gun violence all the more dangerous.”
The bill calls for a mandatory buyback for those already in circulation, a 90-day grace period for suppressor owners to comply with the ban, and a carve-out for certain people such as law enforcement officers and outfits engaged in testing to keep them.
The question is, do they have a point?
First, we need to understand what a suppressor really does and what it doesn’t do.
At most, a suppressor will reduce the noise of a gunshot from where it will likely cause hearing damage to where you can get away without wearing ear protection while firing the gun. You still hear the gunshot, of course, but it’s simply not as explosively loud.
That’s a far cry from the alarmist rhetoric presented by the bill’s sponsors.
Further, that reduction in volume counters Rep. Coleman’s claim that there’s no legal application for such devices. They’re very useful for protecting people’s hearing, either at the range or in a self-defense situation inside one’s home.
Trust me, if you hear a gunshot go off inside the house, you’d understand why a suppressor would be a good thing.
There’s another aspect to suppressors that lawmakers are missing here, and that’s the round itself. Bullets tend to fly at supersonic speeds. They create a sonic boom as they pass through the air–though, in fairness, because of the slug’s size, it’s more of a sonic crack. That will also be audible and a suppressor does nothing to reduce that.
In other words, what we’re looking at is a bill that is based more on hysteria fueled by Hollywood than any actual facts.
Then we must face the fact that suppressors are already heavily restricted by the National Firearms Act. They’re in essentially the same category as a machine gun, though they’re slightly easier to get since there’s no arbitrary ban on suppressors made after a given date unlikely full-auto firearms.
The restrictions on getting a suppressor lawfully go well beyond the current gun control laws on actual firearms in most states. Additionally, there’s little evidence of lawfully purchased suppressors being used illegally at all.
So when I say it’s hysteria fueled by Hollywood, it’s not just that film and television suggest these devices are more effective than they are, it also suggests they’re more readily available and used by criminals more than they are.
None of which touches on the Second Amendment issues involved, especially after the Bruen decision.
On every level, this bill illustrates the problem with laws being created by people who are ignorant of the subject they’re trying to regulate.