Silencers (or suppressors or whatever you want to call them) have long been ignored in the conversation about “gun rights.” Regulations regarding ownership and manufacture of silencers haven’t changed much since the National Firearms Act of 1934 restricted their ownership and made them subject to a $200 tax, requiring almost the same background checks and paperwork as a machine gun. Last week, hot on the heels of their big win in the House of Representatives with The National Right to Carry Act, the NRA published an article supporting loosening restrictions on silencers. But it wasn’t always thus, as Kevin Brittingham of Advanced Armament Co. told us . .
In 2000 the NRA had their annual show in Charlotte, and we were a pretty young company then and I bought a table and was setting up to go there and about a week before the show they called me, someone from their executive office, and informed us that we could not set up at the NRA show. And the reason they gave was “we don’t want the news media focusing on your table and putting guns in a bad light.”
So I was the first person to get my lifetime membership money back from the NRA, and I was really pissed.
But to show how things are changing, at our silencer shoot this year the NRA actually set up a table and came to our event. And now at their federal level and their grassroots (the guy that runs that), they’re willing to help us to create better awareness about silencers and promote them, and get it to where all states are legal for silencers.
It seems like a new state opens up every year, we have most of them now. And to get states where we can hunt game animals with silencers. In Europe you can already do it, so we’re not as progressive as we’d like to think.
The NRA was slow to warm to silencers, but it seems like they’ve reached the tipping point. On the 17th the NRA published an article titled “Suppressors – Good for Our Hearing… And the Shooting Sports.” Darren LaSorte, manager of the NRA’s hunting policy, listed all of the reasons why it’s dumb to keep regulating silencers so much. Read the full article here, but here are the highlights:
- Silencers are legally classified as firearms for regulatory purposes, but don’t meet the definition of a firearm.
- People put mufflers on their cars, why not their guns?
- Silencers may help improve accuracy and lead to fewer wounded animals (and more humane kills) during hunting season.
- Noise complaints against ranges would decrease or be eliminated if everyone used a silencer.
- Silencers for home defense would be a benefit to the homeowner.
- Hearing protection wouldn’t always need to be worn.
They elaborate a bit on each reason, but the last two paragraphs really tie together the whole argument.
Some will argue that the legalization of suppressor use while hunting will increase the incidents of poaching, but the experience of the many states that allow the practice clearly proves them wrong. Would these opponents mandate the use of the .338 Lapua with a muzzle brake in order for shots to be heard from the greatest possible distance? Is the diminutive .243 Win. Simply too quiet? As one suppressor advocate in Montana asked earlier this year during the legislative session, should all bow hunters be required to sound an air horn every time they release an arrow in order to alert any nearby wardens?
The reality is, the less muzzle noise heard by the non-hunting public, the better off we all are.
It’s time that policymakers–legislators, wildlife commissioners and gun club board members–move to eliminate the laws, regulations and policies that discourage or prohibit suppressor use. In addition to decreasing the incidents of permanent hearing loss, it will help keep the shooting sports alive and well by decreasing the calls to close shooting areas and hunting lands. Suppressors may not be for everyone, but that’s the best aspect of freedom–it is your choice.
I really hope the NRA goes after changing silencer regulation as fervently as they have with pursuing other legislative changes. Because seriously, I’m going crazy waiting for the paperwork to clear on my new silencer.