Silence is not always golden

Gun don’t kill. People using guns kill.

Having lost the immoral high ground in the endless US gun control debate, the rabidly anti-people National Rifle Association (NRA) is spinning a genuine health concern about hearing protection in order to promote silencers. Trump’s Number One Son, Donald Jr., is backing them.

Familiar from countless spy movies, a silencer or suppressor is the device attached to the barrel of a firearm which reduces the amount of noise and visible muzzle flash generated by firing. Typically, a silencer is a metal cylinder with internal mechanisms to reduce the sound of firing by slowing down the escaping propellant gas.

American inventor Hiram Percy Maxim, son of Maxim gun inventor Hiram Stevens Maxim, is usually credited with inventing and selling the first commercially successful silencers around 1902. A patent was taken out on 30 March 1909. The first state law outlawing the sale or possession of silencers was in Maine, enacted in 1909. Pittsburgh moved against silencers that same year. The reason given by the police was that while the noise made by firing a weapon would immediately warn people of potential danger, the use of a silencer meant there was no warning.

Between 1909 and 1934, at least 13 states enacted silencer laws, with five of them specifically barring their use in hunting. North Carolina’s 1925 law, for example, barred “any gun” used for hunting “that does not produce when discharged the usual and ordinary report”. Maxim ceased manufacturing silencers in 1930 because of the widely held impression that they aided and abetted crime.

Clearly, gunfire can be seen as an important safety feature of a firearm. From potential victims who seek to escape a mass shooting to a hiker being alerted to the presence of a hunter in the woods, the sound warns others of lethal danger. Yet the NRA is insisting that there is a greater danger: hearing loss by gun owners!

The NRA is using arguments from public health concerns about damaging noise levels to advocate a Hearing Protection Act. The bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) eliminate the $200 transfer tax on firearm silencers, and (2) treat any person who acquires or possesses a firearm silencer as meeting any registration or licensing requirements of the National Firearms Act with respect to such silencer. The effect of the Bill will be to remove federal registration and identification requirements for those seeking gun silencers.

Trump Jr. has leapt on what he sees as a popular bandwagon to give his blessing to the move. While the purchase of a silencer is legal in all but eight states, the NRA supported by Trump Jr. are trying to sweep aside vital background checks and record-keeping requirements such as photo identification and fingerprinting.

The NRA has an aggressive policy of bitterly contesting moves to control gun sales and their use in the USA. In 2016 it spent $2,530,000 on gun lobbying and every year for the past seven years it has spent more than $2.4 million.

The NRA’s aim is to eviscerate gun controls. Now, it is cynically boosting the sale of silencers. Why? Because most existing guns do not have the threaded barrels necessary to attach them – so people will have to buy new guns.

Trump Jr. is helping to make America great again by putting the family name on a silent way of killing people.

Knotted gun sculpture

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4 comments on “Silence is not always golden

  1. larryzb says:

    “Gun don’t kill. People using guns kill.”

    Actually that is true. The machine, the tool, the inanimate object is not to blame.

    Do you know why the Founders put the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights?

    • Philip Lee says:

      Yes, of course. But the right to bear arms (and to use them) has to be balanced against “well regulated”, which also appears in the Second Amendment. Commonly held to mean “well trained”, it should mean “regulated in ways that protect the sanctity of life”, i.e. with checks and balances on who can own a weapon and in what circumstances. A second point has to do with the “security of the state”. Bearing arms was seen in relation to state security and collective attacks upon it. It did not refer using weapons within a community, i.e. for hunting, nor to carrying concealed weapons, nor to using silencers to mask felonious deeds. I hope that is what you meant by your question.

      • larryzb says:

        The founders and framers had just experienced an out-of-control central government (the British) abusing the citizens. They did not want the central government to have a monopoly on the means of force. The final check on government’s abuse of its power is a citizenry that can, if need be, overthrow it. What did all the 20th century murderous regimes do? Disarm the citizenry.

      • Philip Lee says:

        Let’s cut to the chase: In the USA today, with organized, disciplined and accountable law enforcement agencies at federal and state levels, with a National Guard, with the FBI and Homeland Security, there is no need for an armed public. This has been shown to be true in countless other countries (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany…) where the rule of law is upheld. Relying on an archaic piece of legislation that may have suited its times but is hopelessly outdated to justify gun ownership and use is uncivilised and leads to: 13,286 people killed in the US by firearms in 2015, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and 26,819 people injured (figures that exclude suicides). It also creates a “gun culture” in which children are encouraged to use guns, and adults are encouraged to accept their inevitability. As was already obvious: guns don’t kill; people using guns kill. Solution: take away the guns.

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