Washington • Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has reintroduced legislation to erase restrictions on buying and owning firearms silencers, a move quickly denounced by gun-control groups as a dangerous proposal that will make Americans less safe.
In previously introducing the legislation, Lee pitched his bill, dubbed the Silencers Helping Us Save Hearing Act, or SHUSH Act, as a way for hunters and target shooters to lessen the chance their firearms will damage their hearing and noted that silencers only diminish the sound of a shot and don’t make it actually silent.
“Suppressors don’t work like they do in the movies. You can’t make an AR-15 as quiet as using a stapler,” Lee said in a 2017 statement his office on Tuesday referenced when asked about the bill. “At most, a suppressor can lower the sound of a rifle shot by about 35 decibels, down to about 130 decibels, about the same sound level as a chainsaw.
“Nobody is going to sneak away from anybody with a chainsaw going full blast, but at least their eardrums won’t burst,” Lee continued.
His bill would eliminate federal regulations over silencers, including current requirements that a purchaser file paperwork with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, obtain approval from law enforcement and get fingerprinted.
“This is a ridiculous, unnecessary and oppressive process which only hurts the eardrums of millions of hunters, sportsmen and marksmen every year,” Lee said previously.
The legislation never made it out of a Senate committee in the last congressional session, though a companion bill did advance in the House in 2017 until a shooter killed 58 people and injured another 850 in Las Vegas in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting.
David Chipman, senior policy adviser for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and a retired ATF special agent, said Lee’s bill was “reckless” and would make the job of a police officer more dangerous. Chipman noted it came out just before news broke of the shooting of five police officers in Houston.
“The only people that benefit from this bill are gun lobbyists and criminals who want easier access to deadly weapons,” Chipman said. “That’s why this irresponsible legislation couldn’t get passed when Republicans had complete control of Congress. Instead of making it easier for firearms that could be used in ambushes and other attacks to enter our streets, Congress should focus on making the job of police officers who are trained to serve and protect our communities and families safer.”
Chipman, whose Giffords Law Center is named after former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head but survived, previously testified against the House bill.
Kris Brown, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, also blasted the bill.
“With public opinion and the majority of new members of Congress clearly on the side of gun safety, it’s a shame that Senator Lee is continuing to push his silencer bill on behalf of the gun industry,” Brown said.
“The only impact this legislation would have would be to make our communities less safe from gun violence and to put more money in the pockets of firearm manufacturers,” Brown added. “We’d be happy to sit down with Senator Lee to discuss why this bill is so misguided, and we hope he takes us up on this offer.”
West Valley City-based SilencerCo, which had backed legislation to ease restrictions, declined comment on Tuesday about the new bill.