“Pop, pop, pop, pop — it’s a sound I’ll never forget.”
That’s how Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan described the scene in June when a gunman attacked members of Congress practicing for a baseball game in suburban Washington. That sound allowed some people at the scene to take cover — yet Bishop and his fellow Republicans now seem prepared to pass legislation that would make it harder for anyone similarly threatened to heed the warning.
A bill now working its way through the House would remove silencers from the list of devices regulated by federal authorities under the 1934 National Firearms Act.
In addition, the bill would weaken regulations for transporting firearms across state lines and purchasing armor-piercing bullets.
Currently, anyone wishing to purchase a silencer must submit fingerprints and a photograph for a background check and pay a $200 fee. A record is kept of the purchase, and local law enforcement officials are notified of the sale. Loss or theft must be reported.
The ostensible reason for making silencers readily available to all is to combat hearing loss among hunters and other sportsmen. (An earlier version of the bill, which Bishop co-sponsored, was called the Hearing Protection Act.) Proponents also point out that silencers are “seldom used” in crimes.
These are weak arguments. Yes, allowing hunters to use silencers might help them reduce hearing loss. But so would a variety of noise reduction products already on the market. As for silencers seldom being used — that’s because federal law prevents criminals from buying them.
FROM A BLOOMBERG VIEW EDITORIAL