On Thursday, a Panel in the Minnesota House of Representatives voted in favor of which would de-criminalize the possession of silencers and prohibit a chief law enforcement officer from refusing to perform NFA sign-offs “based on generalized objection to private presons or entities making, possessing, or receiving firearms or any certain type of firearm, the possession of which is not prohibited by law.” HF1434 also establishes an appeals process for cases where the CLEO refuses to sign off on an NFA application, awarding reasonable attorneys for plaintiffs who are so denied and later prevail in court . . .
As the Star Tribune reports, it may be an uphill battle to enact the measure, not least of which because Governor Mark Dayton, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Laborer Party, has “said he has no interest in changing the state’s existing gun laws.”
The hearings also generated a bit of light — and heat — from interested parties:
Advocates say firearm suppressors are a health benefit, protecting the hearing for not only hunters and neighbors who live near shooting ranges, but also for firearms instructors and their students, for whom communicating and the ability to hear is paramount to safety….
“Unbelievably, this device is treated as a deadly firearm by the federal government and is tightly regulated by the federal government,” [said Andrew Rothman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance]. “I imagine this could be deadly if you hit someone with it hard enough, but it’s not really dangerous. It’s an accessory.”
But gun control advocates, who packed the committee hearing along with gun rights advocates, were skeptical. Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, a gun safety and anti-gun violence organization, contended that the devices have no health benefits.
“Silencers are not designed for hearing protection. Silencers are designed to allow people to commit murder and get away with it,” she said in a statement that drew laughter from gun rights advocates, causing committee chair Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, to call for order. “One of the concerns we have is if someone commits a mass shooting and has a silencer, they can claim more victims. We would like to prevent tragedies, not react to them.”
“If you think this is about hunting, I happened to look up the ads from the silencer companies,” said Protect Minnesota member Joan Peterson as she held up a photo of a burly, unsmiling bearded man holding what appears to be a military-style firearm. “If you think this…looks like a hunter needing a suppressor, then I ask you to consider what you’re doing here today….”
The measures received enthusiastic support from some committee members, including Cornish, who sported a camouflage suit-and-tie combo complete with an assault rifle pin on his lapel, and referred to the hearing as “Fun Day/Gun Day,” and Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, who repeatedly questioned claims that suppressors rendered firearms dangerous if they still remain so loud.
Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, said she traveled to a police department to shoot with and without a suppressor. It reduced the sound, she said, “but not dramatically.”
This testimony highlights for me one of those things that you don’t really appreciate until you’ve actually been learning and talking about the politics surrounding the civil right to keep and bear arms for a while. There just aren’t that many ‘facts’ proffered by the other side (typically offered in a breathless, angry voice,) capable of surviving in much sunlight.
The flack wasn’t limited to the hearing, of course. Dick Herfindahl, who writes the “Woods & Water” column for the Albert Lea Tribune comes out swinging against HF1434, too, with the caveat about supporting the Second Amendment that is de rigueur for Fudds and anti-gunners:
I heard part of a news story on the radio that someone introduced a bill to legalize silencers for guns. Really? I am all for protecting our Second-Amendment rights and our right to bear arms, but I find it hard to believe that a silencer has any meaningful purpose to the average sportsman. Obviously there are legislators who have nothing better to do for their district, so they have come up with this. There have to be more important issues like education and our infrastructure that should be focused on. This reminds me of that guy — we all know one — who talks just to hear himself talk.
Yes, Mr. Herfindahl, we sure do know people like that.
As someone who hasn’t been on a hunting trip since age 7, but who suffers from a very mild case of tinnitus (which pre-dated my time as a gun owner), but a silencer just makes sense to protect the hearing of those who are engaged in the shooting sports. My hearing is precious; so is the hearing of my family, with whom I occasionally go shooting with as well. If I were to go on a hunting trip again, I’d gladly take a silencer if the option were available — to protect my hearing, and the hearing of any other people or animals who may be within earshot (hunting dogs, anyone?) So color me unconvinced by Mr. Herfindahl or the testimony of his fellow-traveller Joan Peterson. Perhaps too many years of shouting half-truths with a political axe to grind has made them a little deaf on this issue.