Legislation named "The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act" is currently before the U.S. Congress. Who would think such a bill with such a benign-sounding name would make it easier for drug dealers and other criminals to obtain gun silencers and body-piercing ammunition (known as “cop killers”)? That is exactly what House Bill 3668 will do.
This bill deregulates gun silencers and armor-piercing bullets, putting them on the streets of our cities. Silencers and cop killing bullets are strictly regulated for one reason only: the safety of American citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect them.
Many police departments have “shot spotters” that immediately alert law enforcement when a weapon is fired and pin-point the position of the shooter, allowing for a quick police response. Silencers make this technology virtually useless. How many more rounds can be fired before a shooter is detected? How much easier is it for a shooter to get away if no one hears the gunshots? What happens when snipers, mass shooters, drug dealers, other criminals, terrorists, street gangs or members of self-proclaimed militias are equipped with silencers and armor-piercing ammunition.
The gun industry has long argued that Congress should focus on enforcing gun safety measures already on the books, rather than enacting new ones. Laws regulating the sale of firearm silencers and armor-piercing bullets are effective. They save lives. Deregulating their sale, which this bill does, will make us all less safe.
Law-abiding, mentally stable gun owners can already purchase silencers, but they must pass strict local and national background checks and, to help cover costs, pay a $200 tax (an amount set in 1934 when sales of silencers were originally restricted). Under the SHARE Act, unlicensed dealers and private sellers will not be required to conduct background checks to sell silencers. They will be easily available at gun shows to those who currently cannot qualify to possess them.
So why is deregulation of silencers tucked away in a sportsman’s bill? It is called “The Hearing Protection Act.” Its sponsors, which include all of Utah’s U.S. congressional delegation, believe that it is too burdensome for sportsmen (hunters and target shooters in particular) to place inexpensive hearing protectors over their ears or use ear plugs — which provide good protection. Silencers usually retail for $400 to $1,000 and up. The gun industry estimates there are 1.3 million potential sales. Do the math.
Gun sales are down since the last election. By deregulating accessories and ammunition (the bill also lifts the ban on hunting with lead bullets), the gun industry can boost sales of these items as well as firearms. Many silencers screw on the gun barrel. Smith & Wesson and Glock are now manufacturing new guns with threaded barrels to accommodate the expected spike in silencer sales. Again, do the math.
The bill also restricts any state or local governments from enacting laws that tax or regulate firearm silencers. What happened to states’ rights? And why would anyone but a profiteer from the sale of armor-piercing ammunition want to deregulate such killing devices? How can politicians say they support our law enforcement community on the one hand and propose HB3668 on the other?
Law enforcement throughout the country opposes the deregulation of silencers and dangerous ammunition. Those who represent us in the U.S. Congress and Senate need to know that the SHARE Act (HB3668) is not what any responsible gun owner, police officer or the general public wants or needs. The price in human lives is too high.
Linda K. Newell is a writer living in Salt Lake City. She serves on the board of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.