In response to a Virginia Beach employee carrying out a workplace shooting, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday called for “votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers”.
On May 31st, DeWayne Craddock used two .45-caliber handguns – one equipped with a suppressor – to shoot 12 people at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center.
The Virginia Governor announced to lawmakers at the State Capitol that he will introduce a package of new gun control in response to the shooting. Northam demanded that all legislators go on the record when they vote, and he appeared confident in his ability to pass the new measures.
Part of Northam’s bill will require mandatory, universal background checks for all gun purchases, a limit of one handgun purchase per month, and a new Red Flag law that will join 15 other states in allowing members of the public to report gun owners for suspicious activity or suspected mental health issues.
But Northam went further, also calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines and firearm suppressors.
Banning suppressors to stop gun violence is useless
We agree that mass shootings are tragic, needless, and need to stop. But we disagree with many a politicians’ approaches to ending gun violence with useless bans. This case is no different. It cannot be argued that banning suppressors will do any good at all.
Suppressors are rarely ever used in crimes
Yes, DeWayne Craddock used a suppressor to carry out a workplace shooting. Yes, that suppressor might have made his gunfire slightly less loud. We’ll talk about why that suppressor did nothing good for Craddock later.
What that suppressor did not do, is contribute to any real gun crime statistic. Suppressors are not used in gun crimes in any meaningful way. In fact, the ATF clarified that in 2017, 1.3 million suppressors were registered and owned by American gun owners.
Of those 1.3 million suppressors, a whopping 44 were used in a crime. Forty four. That’s not shootings, just general crime. That could mean someone owned a suppressor illegally in that group of forty four occurrences.
Regardless, that’s 0.003%. If American politicians started banning things because they were used in a crime 0.003% of the time, we’d be walking around with no property, clothing, food, or water.
Banning something that is used less than one percent of the time to commit a crime is not good political leadership. It doesn’t contribute to public safety. It’s political posturing, a way to win votes and soothe ruffled feathers.
Suppressors aren’t that useful
Anyone who argues suppressors should be banned is probably going to argue that they make gunfire “dangerously silent”, that the shooter using one can get away with more shots fired before anyone notices.
This simply is not the case. To all politicians: Suppressors don’t work like they appear to in Hollywood.
Most suppressors reduce the volume of gunfire by about 25 to 35 decibels. To give a little context, let’s look at how loud some firearms are. In fact, let’s look at two incredibly common guns, a Glock 19 and an AR-15. We’ll compare them to other real-world sounds.
So, how loud is a gun without a suppressor?
- AR-15: 165 decibels
- Glock G19: 162 decibels
For context, 160 decibels are about as loud as setting off commercial-grade fireworks one meter from your ears. That’s unsettlingly loud. Loud enough to cause immediate hearing damage or loss.
Now, let’s add a suppressor:
- AR-15 suppressed: 132 decibels
- Glock G19 suppressed: 126 decibels
The AR-15’s volume dropped by 33 decibels. The Glock, 36 decibels. That sounds like a substantial reduction in noise, but it most certainly isn’t. At 132 decibels, the AR-15 is still louder than a jackhammer running right next to you.
The Glock 19 is louder than a live heavy metal concert. It’s noticeably louder than an ambulance screaming by you with its sirens on. For comparison, an airplane taking off reports about 140 decibels.
Does a suppressor’s reduction in noise seem quiet enough to provide a shooter with any advantage?
No. These facts are why suppressors were used in just two murders between 1995 and 2005.
Suppressor are incredibly regulated
Even getting your hands on a firearm suppressor is a challenge, one most criminals would never bother facing. To buy a suppressor, you must have your fingerprints taken and recorded by your local law enforcement agency. The ATF also records them in a federal database.
You must notify your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (in writing) that you intend to buy a suppressor. You must also pay a $200 fee just to submit your application. The ATF carefully reviews every application. Most are rejected for minor inaccuracies or a single missed instruction.
And the consequences for owning an illegal suppressor? Enjoy 10 years in prison.
Anyone can make a suppressor
In the world of firearms, a suppressor is one of the simplest accessories you’ll find. It has no moving parts. A suppressor consists of little more than a metal tube with a hole in either end. Inside that tube are some simple metal discs, called baffles.
If you wanted, you could buy the stuff you need to build a functional suppressor from your local hardware store and make one in less than two hours. There are even kits available for turning an automotive oil filter into a suppressor, and it isn’t just a gimmick. Banning real suppressors won’t stop anyone who wants to use one in a crime. You know, like how all other gun control works (it doesn’t).
Why even own a suppressor?
If suppressors don’t reduce the noise of your firearm much, why bother? The answer is simple: Even though your gun will be incredibly loud, a suppressor might make it just quiet enough that it’ll reduce the risk of permanent hearing damage.
The sound of fireworks going off right next to your head might burst an eardrum. The sound of an ambulance screaming by on the road is uncomfortable, but it won’t make your ears bleed (at least not immediately).
That’s the true purpose of a firearm suppressor. We think our country’s politicians should understand this basic logic before drafting any new gun control.