Donald Trump campaigned on the claim that he would be a “law and order” president, and the 2016 Republican platform called for more “gratitude and support” for law enforcement and expressed concern over “the murder rate soaring in our great cities.” (That last part, at least, was pretty much a fabrication.) Despite that high-minded rhetoric, congressional Republicans are pushing forward with a stealth bill that will make life easier for contract killers and make it more dangerous for police to protect themselves from gun violence.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources will hear testimony about the innocuously titled “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act” (or SHARE Act), introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican. Buried in the middle of a bunch of provisions regarding hunting and fishing on federal lands, however, is a provision that would roll back parts of an 80-year-old law — passed in response to the St. Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929 — that regulates the sale of firearm silencers.
“Silencers distort the sound of a gun, and in the wrong hands, they put people’s safety at risk,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, explained to Salon.
Under the National Firearms Act of 1934, people who buy gun silencers must pay a $200 tax and go through a cumbersome registration process with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. When Trump won the election, the NRA made it a top priority to push for the end of these regulations. The campaign largely involved rebranding silencers as “suppressors” and arguing that they are necessary for firearm safety, because they supposedly protect people’s hearing during sport shooting.
Gun safety advocates argue, however, that silencers make it easier for criminals to operate and put the lives of police officers at risk. They also argue that the gun lobby has cynical motivations for wanting to get rid of silencer registration and taxes: Profit.
“NRA leadership and their congressional allies are working behind closed doors to prop up lagging gun sales by making it easier for gun companies to sell silencers,” Feinblatt argued, adding that the bill’s backers “put profits ahead of public safety.”