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Congress, don't allow gun lobby to force deregulation of gun silencers

Congress, don't allow gun lobby to force deregulation of gun silencers
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In the evening hours of February 3, 2013, 27-year-old Keith Lawrence and his fiance, 28-year-old Monica Quan, were sitting in their car outside of their condominium complex in Irvine, California. Minutes later, they were both shot and killed, the victims of a sickening gang-style hit at the hands of a disgruntled former police officer, Christopher Dorner. In just a matter of minutes, Dorner managed to unleash fourteen shots. Not a single person heard the shooting.

Initially, police were baffled as to why nobody heard the 14 gunshots. It was later discovered that Dorner used a firearm silencer, a specialized piece of hardware that helps to distort the sound of gunfire and mask the muzzle flash of a gun. In the hands of an assassin, like Dorner, silencers pose an enormous threat to public safety, and if the gun lobby gets their way, 1.3 million silencers could soon flood into our nation’s communities without a background check.

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This week, the House held a hearing on the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, a dangerous new bill that purports to help sportsmen and gun owners, like myself, but instead assaults the interests of our nation's law enforcement officials and threatens our public safety and security.

The legislation would remove silencers from the National Firearms Act, a law that has successfully regulated the sale of silencers for over 80 years.

The Washington gun lobby, and the politicians they support, argue that because silencers are rarely used in crime, they no longer need heightened regulation.

Law enforcement officers across the country know that this argument is a fallacy; the regulatory system has been effective in keeping silencers out of the hands of dangerous individuals who do not want them traced back to themselves. Should silencers be removed from the National Firearms Act, individuals unable to pass a background check would be able to obtain these dangerous weapons through unregulated private sales on the internet and at gun shows.

If passed, this law would have a disastrous impact on public safety. Silencers can degrade the effectiveness of gunshot detection technology and the ability of bystanders to identify gunshots, both of which law enforcement officials depend on to quickly locate and apprehend a shooter. While responding officers try to keep the public safe during an active shooting, it would be much more difficult to locate the shooter and neutralize threats.

It’s not just major law enforcement officials who are opposed to deregulating silencers. The vast majority of gun owners — 73 percent, according to a Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC poll — oppose deregulating silencers. That’s because responsible gun owners know that gun industry profits are simply not worth putting our police and our families at risk. When it comes down to it, the only people who benefit from this dangerous policy are the gun lobby and those who wish our communities harm.

Existing loopholes already threaten the safety of law enforcement in our gun laws. Firearms- related incidents were the number one cause of death for law enforcement in 2016, when 64 officers were killed from gunfire. The deregulation of silencers would only add to the carnage.

As an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for 25 years, I often heard calls that I should focus on enforcing the laws on the books. I agree now more than ever.

The National Firearms Act is an example of effective regulation that works and saves lives. Passing a new law that undermines the effectiveness of the National Firearms Act is a threat to public safety and is directly at odds with the gun lobby’s repeated insistence of enforcing the laws on the books.

At a time when more police officers are being killed in ambush-style attacks than in any time during the past two decades, Congress must do more to make our communities safer, not put dangerous weapons in the hands of criminals.

David Chipman is a senior policy advisor at Americans for Responsible Solutions and a former ATF special agent for 25 years.