Washington • Congressional Republicans said in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history that they have no plans anytime soon to move forward on legislation — co-sponsored by all of Utah’s members — that would make it easier for gun owners to buy silencers.
Sen. Mike Lee is sponsoring a bill, also backed by Sen. Orrin Hatch, that would remove restrictions and government fees for buying silencers, arguing that it would help protect a shooter’s hearing and end an arduous process that does nothing to curb violent attacks.
“Firearm suppressors are not lethal. You can’t kill anyone with one,” Lee said in a statement recently. “And they do not turn criminals into James Bond like in the movies. They do make a perfectly legal sport more safe for millions of Americans.”
Silencers reduce the sound of a rifle or piston firing but do not make them silent as the name might imply. Still, after police say a man used nearly two dozen weapons to rain bullets on a country music festival in Las Vegas — killing at least 60 people and injuring more than 500 — there were quick calls to end the silencer legislation.
“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” tweeted former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Monday. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
“Imagine how much worse the shooting could have been if the gunman had a silencer,” added Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head by a gunman but survived.
A House committee last month advanced a version of the legislation to ease silencer purchases but House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that the bill wasn’t on the priority list for now.
“That bill is not scheduled now. I don’t know when it’s going to be scheduled,” Ryan said at his weekly news conference. “Right now we’re focused on passing our budget.”
The legislation would jettison federal restrictions on buying a silencer — also called a suppressor — getting rid of fees and a long process to apply for the right to buy the device.
The West Valley City company SilencerCo would benefit from the legislation and its president said Tuesday that it was “crap to bring this debate into pending legislation regarding things that were not even used” in the Las Vegas shooting.
Jason Schauble said silencers can reduce a gun shot’s 160-170 decibel sound down to 130 decibels but that would have been clearly audible to concertgoers.
“At the end of the day, it’s a horrible tragedy,” Schauble said. “People shouldn’t just go shoot people in this country. At the same time, it wouldn’t have been any different. The choice of equipment wouldn’t have radically changed the outcome.”