Washington, United States | AFP | Republican lawmakers on Tuesday proposed making it easier to buy silencers for firearms, scandalizing Democrats.
The proposed legislation aims mainly to benefit hunters or owners of firing ranges and contains several provisions, including the one on silencers.
Since 1934, a government permit has been required to buy a silencer. Applicants have to undergo a background check, provide fingerprints and a photograph, and pay a $200 fee.
But sales of silencers are on the rise and Republicans argue that hunters need them to protect their hearing from the sound of their guns firing.
“My father himself suffered from it,” Tom McClintock, a Republican representative from California, said at a House hearing on the bill.
He said silencers also would help reduce noise at shooting ranges near residential areas.
“In my district, it’s been a major complaint of residents near a recently opened outdoors shooting range,” he said.
The Republicans want to make buying a silencer no different from buying most firearms, subject only to a quick background check run by gunshops.
But even those controls are not applied to firearms sold at gun fairs or between individuals.
“It seems sportsmen have to choose between damaging their hearing and being able to hunt, shoot, target practice,” said Liz Cheney, the Republican representative from Wyoming.
“You shouldn’t have to injure your hearing to exercise a constitutional right,” said Stephen Halbrook, a gun rights activist from Fairfax, Virginia.
Opponents of easing the rules say a shooter equipped with a silencer is a greater threat to police.
Silencers don’t suppress the sound of a gunshot completely, but they do muffle and deform it.
California congressman Jimmy Gomez recalled a 2013 incident in which a former Los Angeles police officer killed four people over a ten-day period using a silencer.
“This gave (him) a distinct tactical advantage against the police,” Gomez said. “We should not make it easier for anyone to obtain these weapons of war.”
The bill is still in the early stages of the process.