Five Things to Know about the Danger of Silencers

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the gun lobby throwing their weight behind a bill that would ease regulations on gun silencers, making them easier to obtain — and inevitably much more accessible to felons, domestic abusers, and people suffering a mental health crisis.

While the gun lobby’s motivations to back such a bill are obvious (fewer regulations = more sales), the ways in which a bill like this could escalate gun violence in our communities takes a little more effort to unearth.

Here are 5 things you should know about the dangers of deregulating silencers:

  1. Gun silencers are weapons — and when they fall into the wrong hands, they are inherently dangerous devices. 
    Silencers reduce the sound of gunfire and mask muzzle flash. They make it difficult for people who are nearby, including law enforcement, to identify the sound of gunshots and locate an active shooter.

2. Deregulating silencers would put more than 900,000 silencers up for grabs.
The National Firearms Act currently requires silencers to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, a law that has been on the books since 1934. As of Feb 2016, there are currently over 900,000 silencers registered. If silencers were removed from the purview of the NFA, the owners of those silencers would be able to sell them in private sales, without a background check, at gun shows, on the internet, or in a parking lot. That means felons, domestic abusers, and people experiencing a mental health crisis could easily obtain them.

3. Silencers diminish the effectiveness of gunshot detection technology. Gunshot detection systems — like ShotSpotter — rely on sound and provide police with real-time alerts about illegal gunfire. This helps law enforcement officials more safely respond to and investigate gun crimes, whether they have been called in or not. Silencers diminish the effectiveness of this lifesaving technology, which is being used in nearly 100 cities nationwide.

4. More silencers on the streets puts law enforcement at risk. 
Making silencers easier to obtain would increase the threat posed to law enforcement when responding to an active shooter event. It’s easy to imagine how suppressed gunfire and muzzle flashes could help criminals elude law enforcement and would raise the risk of ambush attacks targeting cops. Last year, attacks on law enforcement officials resulted in the highest number of ambush deaths in more than 20 years.

5. If silencers are available to criminals, they’ll use them. 
Effective regulation has made silencers extremely difficult for criminals to obtain, but when they have, the results have been devastating. Here’s an example: Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer who had been fired, murdered four people and wounded several others using a gun with a silencer in February 2013. He targeted law enforcement officers in what the Police Foundation described as a bizarre act of vengeance — a “gang-style hit” on innocent people sitting in a car. Police were initially puzzled as to why no neighbors heard the 14 shots: it was because Dorner used a silencer.

The bottom line: The sole purpose of the gun lobby’s push to deregulate silencers is to increase the profits of the gun industry at the expense of public safety.

Want to learn more? Check out these additional resources from Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

About Us: Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence are committed to advancing commonsense change that makes communities safer from gun violence. We provide expertise in firearms litigation, lead grassroots coalitions, and educate the public on the prove solutions to Americas gun violence epidemic.