And we haven’t gotten yet to the provision that’s causing the most outcry. That’s the one about improving access to gun silencers. This is a cause long championed by Donald Trump Jr. We have not really seen much of Junior lately, what with all those controversies over meetings with Russians during the presidential election campaign, and we sort of miss him. Pretty soon there are going to be so many members of the family testifying before congressional investigations that all we’ll have left is Eric.
The big argument by Junior and the other advocates is that the sound of a gun firing is so loud it endangers the hearing of hunters. “Right now we are in a situation where it seems … that sportsmen have to choose between damaging their hearing and being able to hunt, shoot, target practice,” said Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming. (Hey, somebody else we have not heard from for ages. And it is impossible to resist saying that Liz will do for gun safety what her dad, Dick, did for Iraq.)
On the other side, people who don’t want to improve silencer availability say there are lots of kinds of ear protectors hunters can wear, and that the loud sound is very useful for warning people who are not behind the trigger to get out of the way. If there aren’t many crimes involving silencers, they say, that’s probably because, happily, the current rules mean there aren’t all that many silencers. “This is why you don’t see gangs running around the cities with silencers,” said Mark Kelly, who founded a gun safety group with his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, after she was hit in the head during a mass shooting at a shopping center.
Think about the Giffords’ story for a minute. When you get down to the basics, Congress is now considering a bill to make mass shootings less noisy.
You can still get a silencer if you want one and you’re not, say, a criminal. It just takes a while, since there’s a fee, fingerprinting and a background check. And you can’t do an end-run around the rules by buying one at a gun show or on the internet. The silencer law, in fact, is exactly what the gun purchase law would be in a rational system.
So what we have here is a problem about having to wear ear protectors while you wait for the silencer paperwork to go through. You’re probably wondering how this got to be a congressional priority.
The answer is that gun manufacturers and gun dealers are having a tough year. Democratic presidents are great for their business. While there were about three-quarters of a million guns sold in the month of the Sept. 11 attacks, there were more than a million sold in the month Barack Obama was first elected and the gun lobby stirred up paranoia about new regulations. Dealers sold two million in the January after Obama’s re-election, and sales jumped again dramatically at the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, when Hillary Clinton looked like a shoo-in.
Now we’re in the Trump era. “Sales are declining, and the industry needs a new source of profit,” said Chris Murphy of Connecticut, one of the Senate’s top gun safety advocates. Silencers can cost as much as $1,000, and given the fact that there are about 300 million guns in the country available for silencing, we’re talking about quite a potential boom.
Who says Washington isn’t doing anything for the economy?
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