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EDITORIAL: Supreme Court loudly affirms federal right to regulate gun silencers

The court’s ruling should send a message to the gun lobby and its shills in government that it’s time to end assaults on gun silencer regulations.

The U.S. Supreme Court is rejecting a challenge to federal regulation of gun silencers, just days after a gunman used one in a shooting rampage that killed 12 people in Virginia. The justices did not comment Monday in turning away appeals from two Kansas
The U.S. Supreme Court is rejecting a challenge to federal regulation of gun silencers, just days after a gunman used one in a shooting rampage that killed 12 people in Virginia. The justices did not comment Monday in turning away appeals from two Kansas men who were convicted of violating federal law regulating silencers.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

If you’re looking for a litmus test of sanity on gun issues, consider where a person stands on making gun silencers freely available to the public.

Unlike, say, a debate over whether folks should be allowed guns to protect their homes, there’s little room for an honest difference of opinion on silencers. Silencers put us at greater risk with little counterbalancing benefit.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a legal attack on federal silencer regulation, just 10 days after a gunman used a silencer in a Virginia Beach shooting rampage that killed 12 people. We would hope that sends a message to the gun lobby and its shills in government that it’s time to stop assaults on gun silencer regulations both on the state and federal levels.

Silencers, which act like mufflers on a car, put innocent people at a shooting scene at greater risk because they don’t hear the sharp crack of a shot that tells them to get out of the way, or they can’t tell where the gunfire is coming from.

In Chicago, silencers — also called suppressors — can defeat a technology called ShotSpotter, which speeds police response by alerting the cops as soon as bullets start flying. The quicker the response, the more likely police can save lives, find witnesses and gather evidence, such as shell casings.

The gun lobby says silencers are needed to guard against hearing loss, but that’s nonsense. You can buy excellent noise-cancelling ear muffs for about $50. Moreover, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says there’s no evidence that gunfire is causing hearing loss. Silencers are all about stealth.

Federal regulations don’t ban silencers. But the Prohibition-era law requires a purchaser to go through a federal background check, give a copy of an application to a local sheriff or police chief, provide fingerprints and a photo, and pay $200. The months-long process has been effective in preventing widespread use of silencers in crimes.

Yet regulations on the federal level and outright bans in eight states and the District of Columbia remain under constant assault. In Monday’s case, Kansas and seven other states asked the Supreme Court to rule that silencers are a Second Amendment right. In the U.S. House, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., has reintroduced the so-called Hearing Protection Act to lift silencer regulations with 64 co-sponsors, and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is sponsoring it the Senate.

The push for eliminating silencer restrictions largely comes from gun manufacturers, who typically see their sales go down during a Republican administration, leading them to focus on sales of accessories.

Lifting rules on silencers is a bad idea. In a sensible world, Monday’s Supreme Court ruling will put an end to the effort.

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