A bill that would reform silencer regulations and add certain protections for gun owners and hunters passed out of a committee in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
H.R. 3668, known as the SHARE Act, passed through the House Committee on Natural Resources after hearings on it were held in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands yesterday. The bill includes a number of gun reforms that gun-rights and hunting activists have been pursuing for years. Silencer deregulation, further protections for interstate transport of firearms, further protections on the importation of firearms and ammunition, further protections on certain firearms and ammunition from reclassification in order to make them illegal, and increased access to federal public lands for hunting and fishing are all included in the bill.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), who introduced the SHARE Act, said its movement out of committee is a "win for the sportsmen and women of America" and will serve to protect the country's hunting tradition.
"Sportsmen are the foundation of the conservation movement in the United States, yet some radical organizations seek to limit access to this pastime by restricting the Second Amendment, as well as land and game management," Duncan said in a statement. "It’s time to reform how we treat these lands in Congress. Let’s responsibly expand access for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. Let’s teach the next generation the basics of safe firearm usage and the virtues of cherishing our hunting traditions. It is imperative that we bring in more sportsmen, not less."
The National Rifle Association praised the Natural Resources Committee markup of the SHARE Act, which represents the first movement on gun-rights legislation since a number of bills were introduced at the beginning of the year, as important for hunters and recreational shooters alike.
"Today marks an important step in protecting the Second Amendment freedoms of America’s hunters and sportsmen and strengthening our outdoor heritage," Chris Cox, executive director of the group's Institue for Legislative Action, said. "The SHARE Act will cut burdensome red tape that restricts millions of hunters and sportsmen."
Moms Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy group, slammed the bill as an attempt by Donald Trump Jr. and the National Rifle Association to boost gun manufacturers’ profits.
"A dangerous gun silencers bill just passed the House Natural Resources Committee and is moving FAST in Congress," Shannon Watts, the group's founder, said in an email to supporters. "Donald Trump Jr. and the NRA are working behind closed doors to make it easy for felons and domestic abusers to buy gun silencers. And they're doing it to boost lagging gun sales—putting gun industry profits ahead of people."
The SHARE Act incorporates similar language to that of the Hearing Protection Act and would remove the registration, which can take months for the federal government to process, and the $200 tax stamp currently required to purchase a silencer. Instead, the legislation would treat silencers as common firearms and require background checks in order to buy one from a licensed gun dealer.
Republicans and gun-rights advocates have argued that silencer reform would help protect the hearing of hunters and recreational shooters since the devices diminish, but don't actually silence, the sound of a gunshot. Democrats and gun-control advocates have argued that silencers may hinder law enforcement in responding to shootings.
In February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives told the Washington Free Beacon there are currently 1.3 million silencers registered in the United States and it has only recommended prosecutions for 44 silencer-related crimes per year over the past decade. That means about .003 percent of registered silencers are used in crimes each year.
The SHARE Act is awaiting a floor vote from the full House of Representatives. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R., Calif.) office did not immediately respond to a request on if or when the bill might be scheduled for a vote.
Rep. Duncan said he hopes the vote will come sooner than later.
"I believe this bill is a great start to build on in the future," he said in a statement. "I encourage House leadership to bring this critical legislation to the floor for a vote on the House Floor."