LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The case to allow the use of suppressors in Delaware

The loud BANG of a gunshot is a product of physics. In part, you have a small explosion of a gunpowder-charged cartridge that sends a bullet forward, and also, you have the bullet itself breaking the sound barrier and creating a small sonic boom. That small sonic boom is actually the loudest part of the report of a gun, and that is one of the reasons why smaller-caliber firearms make less noise than larger-caliber firearms. And it is the worst kind of sound — a concussive sound that does permanent damage to the eardrum.

There are those who will argue that a suppression device on a firearm makes it in some way more deadly, more covert, or simply more evil. They have enjoyed a firearms education via “The Late Late Show.” In those movies, villains and gangsters snarl wickedly as they attach the devices to their guns, and the audience is horrified that the sound of the bullet striking a feather pillow is louder than the shot itself. Such flights of fancy make for fun entertainment, but do not accurately describe reality.

And yes, the better term for the device is “suppressor” rather than “silencer” simply because the device suppresses the sound — it by no means eliminates it. Silence implies the absence of sound. The sound of a gunshot through a suppressor can still be plainly heard — just without the pain to those nearby. There are currently 42 states that have laws permitting the private ownership and use of suppressors, with Illinois poised to become the 43rd.

Many of these states also permit the suppressors to be used while hunting. With almost 85 percent of the United States currently permitting their use, there should be numerous cases of them being used in crime and for evil purposes, if that concern were valid — but it is a statistical zero.

Hearing damage, on the other hand, is a very real and tangible problem. Worse, hearing damage is cumulative and irreparable — a high price indeed to pay so that someone with a misunderstanding of reality can “feel safer.” The misguided warn that criminals and terrorists might now have access to suppressors, making their attacks more deadly. But considering that virtually every action the attacker has taken, and every weapon the attacker has used, are illegal, it is doubtful that they draw the line at silencers for reasons of morality or fear of punishment. In fact, the opposite is true — the noise and the panic are important elements of their attack.

These same people might suggest, then, that the Berlin terrorist attacker in December would have killed and injured fewer people had his truck not had a muffler. Such extreme arguments are meant only to strum emotional strings.

For the millions of Americans that spend their weekends at the shooting range, and certainly for those who live nearby, reducing the noise level to non-dangerous volumes would indeed be a wonderful thing. The number of hikers accidentally killed or injured by hunters is so small that one must do in-depth research just to find examples. Implying that this would somehow change is a transparent fear-mongering tactic.

What will change, however — on day one — is the saved hearing and reduced stress of hunting dogs and other nearby companions. The grandson being taught to shoot who momentarily forgets to put on his hearing protection may not be permanently punished, and in turn, will be able to hear his grandchildren. Domestic dogs and other pets that are frightened by fireworks and hunting season might also find some comfort — yes, the practical and obvious benefits are plenty.

As opposition voices emerge to predict carnage and blood in the streets if a law or regulation that restores freedom and choices to gun owners becomes reality, remember that such claims have never become reality. The NRA and the DSSA support the Hearing Protection Act, because it will do exactly what its name suggests, and nothing more.

David A. Crout
A director of the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association

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