Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) took to Twitter on Tuesday to express her opposition to legislation that would remove some of the regulations associated with gun silencers and made several inaccurate claims in the process.
"I’m fighting back against bills (backed by the Trump admin) that’d make it easy for criminals to buy gun silencers," Gillibrand’s tweetstorm began. "Can you imagine if we allowed a criminal with a gun in New York City to attach a silencer to their weapon? It’d be a dangerous mistake."
Gillibrand was referring to the Hearing Protection Act, which was introduced to both houses of Congress earlier this year. The bill would remove silencers from the purview of the National Firearms Act and eliminate the requirement that those purchasing a silencer pay a $200 tax, submit pictures and fingerprints to the ATF, and wait several months for approval. However, contrary to Gillibrand’s claim, it would still be illegal for criminals to own silencers and a background check would still be required to purchase one.
Though silencers have exploded in popularity over the last year, with more than 1.3 million registered in the United States, the ATF told the Washington Free Beacon last month that they are rarely used in crime. The federal agency, which is tasked with overseeing the registration of the devices, said there have been 44 silencer-related crimes per year over the past decade. According to those numbers, roughly .003 percent of silencers are used in crimes each year.
Later in her tweetstorm, Gillibrand said silencers may make it harder for police to solve gun crimes because witnesses may not hear illicit gun shots.
"When someone gets shot by a gun with a silencer, it’s quiet. Witnesses might not hear. Police will be less likely to track down the shooter," she tweeted. "How can we end violence in our communities if criminals can get easy access to equipment that’d make it hard for police to solve gun crimes?"
Gillibrand also linked to a New York Daily News piece, in which she called silencers "deadly" and "a huge risk to our enforcement and our communities."
Gillibrand ended her tweetstorm by calling on others to speak out on the issue. "Let’s keep our communities safe from gun violence and keep gun silencers out of the hands of criminals. I hope you’ll speak out on this," she said.
I'm fighting back against bills (backed by the Trump admin) that'd make it easy for criminals to buy gun silencers. https://t.co/m1uFZNOBYI
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) March 14, 2017
Gun rights groups said Gillibrand’s comments are reflective of someone who has only seen silencers in movies and don’t represent reality. "Senator Gillibrand’s statements clearly show that she lacks even a basic understanding of suppressors," Knox Williams, president of the American Suppressor Association, told the Free Beacon. "Like most people, her only exposure to suppressors has almost certainly been on the silver screen. While entertaining, Hollywood’s depiction of suppressors has no basis in reality."
The National Rifle Association’s Lars Dalseide said that while gun shots fired through a silencer are less likely to damage a shooter’s hearing, they are still loud. "Millions of hunters and recreational shooters risk a lifetime of hearing loss every time they pull a trigger," he said. "While shooting a suppressed firearm will decrease their chance of permanent hearing loss, the gunshot is still louder than a clap of thunder."
Williams invited the senator to shoot a silenced firearm and see for herself what they sound like. "The only way to create an informed and educated position is to hear them firsthand with your own ears," he said. "I would be happy to take Senator Gillibrand, Senator Murphy, and any of their colleagues who are interested, out to the range to see and hear suppressors in use. To choose not to is to remain willfully ignorant."