Hot off the heels of other gun control legislation, Democrats introduced a federal suppressor ban last Monday. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is sponsoring the bill. The bill, if passed, would outlaw the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer, and possession of suppressors. Menendez cites the recent mass shooting in Virginia — wherein the shooter used a suppressor a .45-caliber handgun – as cause for the legislation.
“We were reminded how dangerous silencers can be a few weeks ago, when a gunman used a .45 caliber handgun fitted with a suppressor to kill 12 Americans in Virginia Beach. What first sounded like a nail-gun ended up being gunfire,” Menendez commented in a recent statement.
The bill would authorize a suppressor buy-back program, much like existing gun buy-back programs that law enforcement and agencies sponsor across many U.S. states. Worryingly, President Trump also said that he might support a suppressor ban. In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Trump said he “doesn’t like gun suppressors and would think about banning them”.
But This Bill is Useless
While some may view the Virginia mass shooting as justification for implementing a suppressor ban, basic facts and crime data say this bill would do nothing to curb gun violence carried out with suppressors. That’s because suppressors simply aren’t ever used in gun crime. Two years ago, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) released statistics that show nearly 1.3 million suppressors are registered in the United States. “As of 02-03-2017, there are 1,297,670 suppressors registered with ATF under the National Firearms Act,” Justice Department spokesman Dillon McConnell reported to the Free Beacon.
Of those nearly 1.3 million suppressors in circulation, just 44 have been recorded in a suppressor-related crime over the past decade. That equates to approximately 0.003% of all suppressors being used in a crime, annually. Just six of those incidents involved suspects with prior felony convictions. In a leaked memo, ATF Associate Deputy Director Ronald Turk even said that suppressors should be de-regulated and not banned, citing their virtual absence in any gun-related crimes.
Turk went on to say that the amount of paperwork required by the National Firearms Act to even own a suppressor has bogged down the ATF’s ability to process paperwork. “ATF’s processing time is now approximately 8 months,” Turk wrote. “…The most direct way to reduce processing times is to reduce the number of silencer applications”.
A Disconnect in Congress
So, the ATF says suppressors shouldn’t even be regulated, yet Democratic legislators vehemently call for their banning. In the face of blatant statistics, facts, and direct word from the ATF’s own mouth, Congresspeople and Senators like Bob Menendez are introducing gun control that is not only counter to what Americans want (the ATF says their recorded number of 1.3 million suppressors represented an increase of 400,000 suppressors since the same time last year), but will do nothing to curtail gun violence, all while needlessly restricting Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
The National Rifle Association chimed in on the matter: “Every year more than a million hunters and recreational shooters are staving off potential hearing loss with the safe and responsible use of suppressors,” NRA spokesperson Lars Dalseide said. “This is a protection every law-abiding gun owner has the right to enjoy, and the ATF numbers back that up.”
A counter-bill, the Hearing Protection Act, would do exactly what the ATF wants to do: De-regulate suppressors. The bill was introduced to the House in January, 2019. It remains to be seen whether Menendez’s bill or the Hearing Protection Act will go forward to a vote.