Dear Senator Pridemore:
I write to you to urge you to support 2011 HB1016, which would amend RCW 9.41.250. As the statute is currently written, firearm suppressors are not legal in our state under any circumstances. Washington is among a small minority of states (13) which allow no possession of firearm suppressors whatsoever. Amending this statute to allow suppressors to be possessed in accordance with Federal law would assist law enforcement and would make the shooting sports safer by reducing hearing loss to shooters.
This legislation would not impair public safety in any way. The use of suppressors in the commission of crimes, in states where they are permitted, is so rare as to be almost nonexistent. Suppressors are poorly suited to use in criminal activity, because they are very bulky and expensive. Contrary to Hollywood myth, they do not ‘silence’ a gun. They merely reduce the noise signature to levels which do not cause hearing damage. I have fired lawfully-owned suppressed weapons in Oregon where they are legal, and in my experience suppressed large-caliber handguns still produce a distinctive and conspicuous ‘bang’ marginally louder than a vigorous handclap. It’s still noisy, but cannot cause hearing damage, and their use would be a benefit to those hunters and shooters who jumped through the Federal hoops to possess them.
This legislation would not ‘open the floodgates’ to widespread public sales of suppressors, because Federal law places significant costs, hurdles, and restrictions on their possession. Before taking possession of a suppressor, a would-be purchaser must submit an application and a $200 fee to the U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The AFTE conducts a thorough background check before approving of the transfer and issuing the applicant a tax stamp. Only with this stamp can the applicant take possession of the suppressor. Only the most law-abiding citizens can possess them under Federal law: convicted felons, undocumented aliens, minors, domestic abusers, drug addicts, and the mentally defective are prohibited.
At today’s hearing for this bill, there was no reported testimony against it, even from law enforcement. They understand that this law will not endanger public safety, and will not lead to a flood of ‘silent’ gun crimes or illegal suppressors. It will merely bring Washington into line with Federal restrictions, along with the thirty-eight other states that permit firearm suppressors.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Christopher J. Dumm