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New Outrageous Lie from NRA: Gun Silencers Protect Kids' Hearing

Silencers could give the next Adam Lanza even more time to kill -- but to the NRA, it's got to be protected.

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“Billions of dollars are spent every year in our healthcare system for hearing loss conditions, such as shooting-related tinnitus,” explained the NRA. It was a very important point that had long been overlooked in the gun control debate; because if there is a single pressing gun safety issue in America today, it is the hearing, comfort and convenience of recreational shooters who find orange earplugs unsightly. The NRA is also extremely concerned about the fright children may receive from shooting or standing near the reports of high-caliber weapons. These jolts could have a lasting and detrimental developmental impact, possibly imbuing America’s impressionable and tender young brains with the notion that guns are loud, dangerous things. The NRA firmly believes that American freedom is best served by giving 9mm gunfire the feel and sound of a toy cap gun. As the NRA’s Lacey Biles put it during last April’s Dallas Silencer Shoot, silencers are good for “getting younger folks involved [in guns]. They’re less afraid of the loud bang.”

For these reasons, the NRA believes America must “move to eliminate the laws, regulations and policies that discourage or prohibit suppressor use.”

And move we have. The NRA has enjoyed state-level success chipping away at restrictions on the use of silencers around the country, an effort that has proceeded largely unnoticed in the shadows of higher-profile battles over the spread of Concealed Carry and Stand Your Ground laws. Silencers are currently legal with permit in 40 states, a growing number of which are rescinding bans on their use while hunting.

The gun lobby’s silencer campaign has bigger prey in mind than state hunting laws. Silencers are among the few accessories regulated by the National Firearms Act. To purchase or transfer a silencer, you must acquire a special license, enter the serial number in a federal registry, and pay a $200 fee. (The fee, which equaled a de facto ban in 1934, has not been adjusted for inflation in 79 years.) For gun extremists who struggle with introductory-level  American history and political theory, the licensing regime is half Stamp Act, half Yellow Badge. What most outrages the manufacturers about the regime is that it works. By licensing silencers, tracking and taxing their exchange, the government has kept them from flooding the market like so many other military-market gun accessories with cameos in recent massacres and serial sniper attacks. “Simple licensing requirements weeds out both blatant criminals and a certain kind of stockpiling insurrectionist who refuses to engage with the federal government,” says Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “The law has been effective.”

Aside from offering a very expensive alternative to earplugs, what conceivable sporting or personal-defense purpose is served by pouring silencers into a gun market dominated by semi-automatic pistols and assault rifles? If history offers any useful clues, and it usually does, the answer is none. The history of the silencer is a twentieth century tale populated by Mafiosi hits, hidden snipers, and special ops ambush teams. It all adds up to decades worth of “negative branding baggage” that the gun lobby is now trying to scrub away like a used car-salesman winding back the speedometer on a lemon.

The silencer began innocently enough. When Hiram Percy Maxim patented the first silencer in 1908, he was just a nice fellow working in the family business, a guy who simply enjoyed finding ways to make loud things quiet. Among Maxim’s many other inventions was an early muffler design for car engines. A quarter-century later, silencers still hadn’t acquired the bad rep they have today. Their best-known criminal use at the time of the 1934 law was as an aid in late-night poaching.

 
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