SPARTANBURG, SC – A Congressman from the Upstate wants to make it easier to buy sound suppressors for firearms, sometimes called silencers. Representative Jeff Duncan (R) – along with Representative John Carter from Texas – says the Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act is to protect a shooter's hearing.
As the ‘K' in T&K Outdoors, Kyle Marlow knows guns. He says protecting your hearing is crucial while hunting, but believes headphones or ear plugs can interrupt the hunting process.
"You can't see, or hear, per say the animals or any of the environments around you," said Marlow. That's where firearm suppressors – or silencers – come in.
"You've gotta answer a bunch of questions – just kind of standard information, but you do have to submit two copies of your finger prints," he said. "If you're not going to do it through what's called a gun trust – and just filling out an individual form – you have to submit three two by two passport photos." He says there are also a $200 transfer tax and a roughly 8 month wait. "It's just a big hassle," said Marlow.
Duncan's bill would only require buyers to pass a National Instant Criminal Background Check. That's the same one used to purchase a firearm. The bill removes suppressors from the scope of the National Firearms Act (NFA).
"I've been shooting since I was a young child – beginning with plinking with a .22 rifle and dove hunting with my Dad. My hearing has been damaged because of gun noise," Duncan said in a release. "Had I had access to a suppressor, it may have protected me, as well as millions of other Americans, from this sort of hearing loss. This is a health issue even recognized in Europe. It just doesn't make any sense to regulate suppressors the way we do presently."
Spartanburg County Democratic Party Chair Shelly Roehrs is also no stranger to firearms, but said the bill seemed unnecessary.
"As a gun owner and member of a gun club, and I recently fired a 57 caliber handgun, it is my responsibility to protect my hearing," said Roehrs. "I think that there are other things that we should be focusing our efforts on, rather than something we have technology for that exists."
The Violence Policy Center says making silencers more widely available threatens public safety. The organization cites Christopher Dorner's deadly 2013 attack on California law enforcement officers as one example.
"Making silencers more widely available will only guarantee that they will be used in more crimes and attacks on law enforcement like Christopher Dorner's rampage in California in 2013," said VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. "To call deregulating silencers a "safety" issue or suggest that it is about "hearing protection" is laughable."
Supporters of Duncan's bill say this legislation is about looking out for the safety of those sports shooting and hunting.
"When you use a silencer or suppressor, they don't make it where it's super quiet. It just makes it where it's hearing safe decibel levels," said Marlow.
The bill also includes a provision to refund the $200 transfer tax to people who bought a suppressor after October 22, 2015. That's the year a similar bill was introduced but failed.
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