As the nation reels over the Las Vegas massacre, which left more than 50 people dead in one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, House Republicans are poised to pass legislation that would make it easier to buy gun silencers, which gun control advocates say could make mass shootings even deadlier.
The provision, the Hearing Protection Act, included in a larger bipartisan legislative package called the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, would remove gun noise suppressors, or silencers, from the list of items regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934, making them substantially easier to buy.
The SHARE Act was marked up by the House Natural Resources Committee last week and is now awaiting a full floor vote — months behind schedule. The original hearing for the proposal was scheduled for the day a gunman opened fire on congressional Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game.
Republican leadership hasn’t scheduled the vote yet — and may not for a while in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting — but when it does come to the floor, the bill is expected to pass. (Last week, a Republican aide told reporters that the bill could be voted on as early as this week.) But now, in light of the shooting in Las Vegas, and the many others that have come before it, the provision is causing a lot more controversy nationwide.
There’s very little chance this bill will be able to garner the support of eight Democrats in the Senate to actually become law. Even so, it’s clear that Republican politicians with an intent to further deregulate firearms are having a more difficult time navigating calls for gun control.
Mass shootings keep getting in the way of Republicans passing this bill
Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and John Carter (R-TX) introduced the silencer provision to protect hunters and their hunting dogs from hearing loss, they said.
“My hearing has been damaged because of gun noise,” Duncan said in a statement. “Had I had access to a suppressor, it may have protected me, as well as millions of other Americans, from this sort of hearing loss.”
While it’s true that these sound moderators do protect hearing in the long run, many gun control advocates are pointing out that this measure would also make it harder to hear a mass shooting or locate a gunman. Some have disputed these claims, arguing that guns remain loud even with these noise moderators. But the debate remains contentious — especially after each tragedy.
Currently, purchasing a silencer can take up to nine months — a similar wait time as buying machine guns or explosives — and requires fingerprints and a photograph, which are kept as federal law enforcement records.
Already one act of domestic terrorism has postponed this legislative push. Republicans had originally planned to move forward on this bill months ago — but had to cancel the June 14 committee hearing because of the Alexandria, Virginia, shooting that critically wounded Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). Scalise returned to work last Friday, just 48 hours before the Las Vegas shooting. It’s still not clear whether this latest mass shooting will bring pause to the SHARE Act once more. Vox’s requests to the House majority leader’s office have not been answered, but GOP sources told Politico the bill wouldn’t be reaching the floor “anytime soon.”
Top House Democrats have already called for Speaker Paul Ryan to start a select committee to curb gun violence, in a clear sign that they intend to put pressure on the majority party.