Firearm silencers or suppressors have earned a somewhat nefarious reputation thanks in part to their frequent portrayal in pop culture as the accessories of hitmen and assassins like James Bond.
For many everyday gun owners, they’re little more than a tool that limits the sound of gunfire, making shooting easier on the ears. At least that’s the argument put forward by one prominent gun enthusiast — Donald Trump Jr., the son of President-elect Donald Trump.
As it stands now, silencers are currently legal in 42 states, but they’re strictly regulated by the Federal government. In order to purchase a silencer, an average law-abiding citizen must undergo a nine-month approval process in addition to paying a hefty tax of $200, notes The Washington Post.
In spite of the paperwork and fees, silencers remain popular. In 2010 there were 285,087 registered silencers in the United States, as of last year, that number had grown to 902,085.
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The firearm industry, which has railed against the restrictions for years, is pursuing new legislation to make it easier to buy silencers, and Trump Jr. is an outspoken proponent of a proposed policy change to do just that.
In a video interview with SilencerCo., a Utah-based silencer manufacturer, Trump Jr. framed the issue around safety, namely the safety of shooters, alluding to the effects of firing an unsuppressed weapon.
“It’s about safety,” Trump Jr., himself an avid hunter and recreational shooter, said in the video interview. “It’s about hearing protection. It’s a health issue for me. It’s just a great instrument. There’s nothing bad about it all. It makes total sense. It’s where we should be going.”
Proponents of silencers, like Trump Jr. are often quick to draw attention to Britain, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, but has no regulations against silencers.
“I’ve had the privilege of being able to hunt in Europe where some of the strictest gun laws in the world exist, but guess what? Virtually every hunting gun there is suppressed,” Trump Jr. said in the interview. “They have silencers there, they don’t look at it as this military whatever, I don’t even know what the left tries to portray this as. It’s about safety.”
Far from actually making gunfire completely silent, silencers function similar to a muffler on a car’s exhaust, reducing the sound.
An attempt to lessen restrictions on silencers in U.S. stalled last year when the Hearing Protection Act failed to make it to committee hearings, however it was the third most viewed piece of legislation on Congress’ website that year. The law would have moved silencers out of the same category as machine guns and hand grenades, eliminating the heavy fees and lengthy approval process.
Now, with Republicans in charge of the House and Senate, and Trump Jr. advocating to lessen restrictions on silencers as a public health effort to safeguard ear-drums and hearing, gun owners may be able to purchase the accessory with greater ease in the future.