Las Vegas Sun

July 16, 2018

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House’s actions on silencers speak loudly about priorities

Finally, House Republicans are rallying to fulfill one of the nation’s most crucial needs.

Affordable health care? A fairer tax system? Ha! No, they’re not even close to resolving those issues.

But — hallelujah! — they’re finally answering Americans’ long and loud cry to make it easier to buy gun silencers.

Yes, gun silencers: those cylindrical thingies that James Bond screws onto the end of his Walther PPK so he can kill evil-doers stealthily and stylishly.

What, you weren’t demanding a silencer?

OK, all joking aside, join the club. Unless you are a hard-core NRA member, you’ll probably go shopping for a silencer around the same time you book your next rhinoceros-hunting trip.

Yet GOP lawmakers in the House, and even some Democrats, have nonetheless galvanized in support of a piece of legislation titled, preposterously, the “Hearing Protection Act.” It would reduce federal regulations involved in the purchase of silencers, and, if you listen to its supporters, is designed to allow hunters and other responsible gun owners to preserve their hearing by making their weapons less noisy.

If you listen to anyone with common sense, it will create a horrifying environment in which criminals can also make their weapons less noisy and kill people without drawing as much attention to themselves.

And for what? Look, we understand that hunters would rather not wear earplugs or earmuffs, because hearing a quiet rustling of leaves or a twig snap can make the difference between a successful hunt and merely a day spent in the wild. And we know that silencers don’t completely muffle gunshots, like they do in the movies.

But in a nation suffering from an epidemic of gun violence, quieter guns and stealthier criminals are not going to help. Plus, the technology of hearing protection has come a long way, filtering out percussive noises without completely blocking hearing.

Finally, let’s call the bill what it is: Yet another tool to allow gun manufacturers to pad their profits. Gun sales aren’t what they were during the Obama administration, when gun owners stocked up under the paranoid belief that the government was coming for their weapons, so the NRA has jumped in to help manufacturers sell accessories.

Back in the 1930s, well before the NRA became the political bully it is today, national lawmakers addressed a rise in gangland violence by regulating silencers like explosives and machine guns. Buyers were required to submit fingerprints and a photo, a lengthy wait time was established and the federal government was ordered to keep records of purchases.

The House bill would do away with all of that. A chicken in every pot, a silencer on every gun. As Republicans and Donald Trump rail about gang violence, they’re working on a measure that will be a gang member’s best friend and will only fuel Trump’s “American carnage.”

Alarmingly, the measure has drawn 162 co-sponsors, including Nevada GOP Rep. Mark Amodei, despite being opposed by a number of police organizations.

It’s telling that a package of gun legislation that includes the bill was placed on hold in June after a gun attack on several GOP lawmakers during a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. For a while, the idea of dialing back regulations on silencers was politically unsupportable, even to lawmakers so deep in the NRA’s pocket that they practically cough gunsmoke.

But time hasn’t made this idea any less insane. Voters in Amodei’s district should send him that message loud and clear, and no other Nevada lawmaker should consider supporting the bill.

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