Editorial: More to be heard about silencers

In this photo taken Jan. 27, 2017, Knox Williams, president and executive director of the Georgia-based American Suppressor Association, poses for a portrait while holding a handgun with a silencer.

Photo by Associated Press.

In this photo taken Jan. 27, 2017, Knox Williams, president and executive director of the Georgia-based American Suppressor Association, poses for a portrait while holding a handgun with a silencer.

We’d like to thank the Courier readers who reached out to us to point out additional information that could have been included in our Sept. 14 editorial about the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act.

The bill includes 18 proposals to ease restrictions on hunting on federal lands, increase access to shooting ranges and make it easier to transport guns and bows across state lines, among other measures.

We addressed two provisions in the bill that would allow the use of silencers while hunting, and armor-piercing bullets.

We failed to include an important point that might have added balance to what was presented — the benefits of suppressing sound to protect hearing.

It was also brought to our attention that the term “silencer” can be misleading. Many gun enthusiasts prefer the term “suppressor” or “muffler.” These words are often used interchangeably and refer to the exact same thing. To be clear, no gun silencer is truly silent.

In addition, supporters say that suppressors can help to not disturb other people enjoying federal lands.

We also heard from several readers about the provision addressing armor-piercing bullets. Supporters argue that this part of the bill is needed to rein in what some see as the limitless power of the Attorney General to bar ammunition from importation by classifying it as armor-piercing. Title XVI of the bill, called the “Lawful Purpose and Self-Defense Act,” denies the government authority to reclassify bullets as “armor piercing ammunition.”

This proposal injects a self-defense argument into a “Sportsmen’s Heritage” act. It essentially says it’s OK if the ammunition pierces body armor, as long as the manufacturer claims the bullets are only meant to be used for sport and not for killing people wearing body armor.

Our editorial should also have explained that the bill under consideration in Congress is for nationwide rules. In Arizona, suppressors have been permitted for hunting since 2012.

We stand by our belief that the silencer and armor-piercing bullet proposals corrupt what would otherwise be a good piece of legislation. There are other ways to protect hearing while hunting, and generally hunters only have a tag to kill one animal, which should theoretically not require repeated exposure to a loud rifle report.

The silencer proposal was originally its own bill called the “Hearing Protection Act,” but the language was slipped into the SHARE Act because it would not have passed on its own.

See Related story: Critics: Hunters’ rights is wrong argument for bill allowing silencers