Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is leading the fight against a bill that would ease restrictions on gun silencers — but Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan hopes to change her mind in an unusual way.
Legislation in both the House and Senate would allow gun owners to obtain suppressors without having to pay the $200 tax or go through a time-consuming background check that can take up to nine months.
The House's Hearing Protection Act would allow for suppressors to be sold over the counter as a firearm accessory, Duncan told TheBlaze in an interview Tuesday. Gun owners would still have to undergo a background check "just like you have to for a firearm," Duncan said.
"There wouldn't be the five background checks you have to go through now to purchase a suppressor, and there wouldn't be a $200 tax stamp that you have to pay now," the South Carolina lawmaker said. "It would just be an accessory purchase with a background check by a federal firearms license holder."
However, Democrats, such as Gillibrand, oppose the legislation as they say it would help criminals dodge law enforcement.
"These deadly gun silencers pose a huge risk to our enforcement and our communities and I will do everything I can to stop this ill-thought-out legislation that would allow more criminals to get their hands on these dangerous weapons," Gillibrand said Monday.
Can you imagine if we allowed a criminal with a gun in New York City to attach a silencer to their weapon? It'd be a dangerous mistake.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@Kirsten Gillibrand) 1489497168.0
Like Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) noted the ShotSpotter technology implemented by the NYPD to help law enforcement officials respond to shootings in the city quicker as a reason for his opposition to the legislation.
"Gang takedowns and innovative technology have been critical to the NYPD's efforts to seize guns off our streets and drive violent crimes to historic lows," de Blasio said. "Dangerous gun silencers stymie these effective tactics. We need stricter gun laws, not a rollback to the lax laws of the bad old days."
But Duncan dismissed the idea that suppressors would silence guns so completely as to interfere with the technology, comparing the sound of a gun with a suppressor to that of a jackhammer.
"A lot of these folks have watched a lot of Hollywood movies," Duncan said of opponents' views on suppressors. "It's a suppressor. It dampens the sound, but it doesn't silence the sound."
"A suppressor suppresses most firearms to where they're still louder than a jackhammer," Duncan continued. "I believe that the technology would still apply."
Duncan told TheBlaze that many people who do not grow up around firearms usually change their minds about guns and gun safety when they visit a gun range.
So he invited Gillibrand to join him at one.
.@SenGillibrand this is my bill. You seem misinformed. I'd love to invite you to a firing range to demonstrate them… https://t.co/6ddQnluTIY— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@Rep. Jeff Duncan) 1489506425.0
Gillibrand's office has not yet responded to the request, but Duncan said the invitation stands.
"I invite anybody who has issues [with guns] or wants to understand firearms or suppressors more" to visit a gun range, Duncan said.
The National Rifle Association volunteered Monday afternoon its gun range for a meeting place.
.@RepJeffDuncan, You’re welcome to use the #NRA Range anytime to educate @SenGillibrand about suppressors… https://t.co/hfKalaSmy2— NRA (@NRA) 1489520774.0
Proponents of the Hearing Protection Act say it's more about health issues than anything.
In a September video for a Utah-based silencer manufacturer, Silencerco, Donald Trump Jr., predicted that his father, who was just a presidential candidate at the time, would support the Hearing Protections Act.
"It's about safety," Trump Jr. said.
"It feels to me, when it comes to virtually anything Second Amendment-related, the people that are most against it, are the people who have really never done it, the people who wouldn't know a trigger from a muzzle," Trump Jr. continued.
And Duncan told TheBlaze:
You can wear hearing protection when you go shoot sporting clays or target shoot, but if you're in a hunting situation, you can't. You need to be able to hear your hunting quarry — whether it's a white-tailed deer walking or a turkey gobbling or ducks flying over or quails flushing. It's important for the hunter to be able to hear if he wants to be successful.
Hunters damage their hearing every year when they discharge their firearm, whether it be a high-powered rifle or handgun or shotgun. This would give them a way to safely pursue their sport and outdoor interest without damaging their health.
As for the idea that easier access to suppressors would only aid criminals, Duncan said criminals would not necessarily obtain a suppressor legally if they truly wanted one.
"If a criminal really wanted to use a suppressed weapon, he could already do so," Duncan said. "You could make a suppressor in your garage with simple items. They're not that complicated to suppress the sound. And they're used so infrequently in crime that it is a statistical anomaly."
A spokesman for Duncan's office said his bill has 121 cosponsors.