The National Rifle Association, which typically uses arguments based on the Second Amendment and personal security, is calling legislation that would make it easier to buy gun silencers a public health issue. The group’s campaign includes rebranding silencers as “suppressors” because they don’t completely silence the sound of gunfire. Silencers reduce the average firearm noise from 165 decibels to below the potentially dangerous level of 140 decibels. “The Hearing Protection Act” is the gun lobby’s priority in Congress, along with a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons across state lines if they have permits in their home state, reports the Wall Street Journal. “We can have disagreements about politics, but there should be universal support for hearing protection,” said the NRA’s Chris Cox.
Gun control groups oppose efforts to make suppressors more accessible. They say the noise of gunfire is essential to warn potential victims and help track down criminals. “Hearing is important, of course, but so are people’s lives,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety. “This is about putting profits over public safety when the market is saturated with guns, and now they want to sell accessories.” The push to make it easier to buy silencers comes as gun sales are on the decline. Background checks dropped 11 percent between January and April this year compared with 2016. Demands for silencers also rose during the Obama administration, with registrations reaching 902,805 last February. A Depression-era law requires suppressor buyers to submit fingerprints and photographs, pay a $200 fee and pass a background check that can take a year. Proposed legislation would allow full rebates on the $200 fee and make the red tape the same as what’s required to buy a firearm. The legislation is expected to be well-received by the Republican-led Congress and President Trump.