Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

Report: Gun-Silencer Vote Could Come Next Week

The House of Representatives could cast the first vote on a controversial bill to deregulate the sale of silencers as early as next week, Politico’s John Bresnahan reports. The legislation, part of a package bill called the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, is the first significant gun bill of the Trump era to advance past its full committee, or to have a hearing.

Silencers have been subject to strict regulation since the passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934. Prospective owners of the devices must submit an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Approval requires a background check and a $200 fee. All silencers must be registered with the agency. Should the House bill pass, silencers could be sold like a firearm. In the 32 states where unregulated private sales are legal, the accessories could change hands between individuals without a background check.

Gun-rights advocates say silencers should be more accessible because they are intended as harmless hearing-protection devices and are rarely used in crimes. Opponents counter that a profusion of silencers would make it harder for police to detect gun crimes, and that, in any case, the reason why they are not often used in crimes is because they are currently heavily regulated.

As I reported earlier this week, silencers were favored by criminals in the early 20th century before they were subject to strict regulation.

Politico quotes Jim Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, who said his group supports eliminating silencer regulation. “The reasoning is because silencers are not — and have not been in the recent past — a law enforcement problem,” he said.

The Politico story doesn’t mention that Pasco is member of CornerStone Associates, a firm that provides, it says on its website, “legislative advocacy.” The company counts the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s largest trade group, as a client. In a phone call, Pasco said he had not personally done any work on behalf of the NSSF. 

The NSSF’s silencer-manufacturing members are eager for the bill to pass. One of the country’s best-known makers of the devices, SilencerCo, laid off hundreds of employees in February. Joshua Waldron, the SilencerCo’s chief executive officer, has blamed his company’s difficulties on the slow pace of deregulation, and said he has made repeated trips from his Utah headquarters to Washington to lobby for policy change.

Bresnahan, the Politico reporter, wrote that the proposal is almost certain to pass the Republican-dominated House. It could face trouble in the Senate, however. Democratic senators have more procedural options for slowing the legislation, and the upper chamber’s version of the SHARE Act, as currently written, would not deregulate silencers.

Politico also reports that the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would make licenses to carry from any one state valid in all 50, could come up for a committee markup in late October or early November.

Correction: this story originally said that Jim Pasco is employed as a lobbyist for CornerStone. CornerStone is an advisory firm, but is not registered to lobby. The description of both CornerStone and Pasco’s association with the company have been corrected. We regret the error.