- - Thursday, June 27, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As Americans, we grieve for the victims and families of violence at the hands of maniacs who have no respect for human life or laws. Sadly, what too often compounds these tragedies are politicians who seek to manipulate these events to advance their political agenda.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam is attempting to pass new restrictions on Virginians’ Second Amendment freedoms, while U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Bob Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, are seeking to do that at the federal level as well.

In the wake of the tragedy in Virginia Beach, our government should be looking at what can be done to allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, instead of passing more failed gun laws. For example, the family lawyer for Virginia Beach city employee Kate Nixon, who was murdered alongside 11 others, stated publicly that Kate spoke with her husband the night before the shooting about bringing a gun to work for self-defense. However, she was not allowed to do so because the Virginia Beach government complex is a “gun-free zone” and the city bans employees from carrying firearms at work.

But do we hear Mr. Northam, Mrs. Wexton, Mr. Menendez and other anti-gun advocates talking about the fact that lives may have been saved if Kate had had the ability to legally defend herself? Of course not.

Instead, the governor has scheduled a special legislative session on July 9 to push forward a range of new laws, including a statewide ban on firearm suppressors. In Congress, Mr. Menendez and Mrs. Wexton have introduced legislation to essentially ban suppressors nationwide. If enacted, these misguided proposals will only harm law-abiding, responsible gun owners of all ages.



The reality is suppressors are a form of hearing protection used by tens of thousands of Virginian hunters and law-abiding gun owners. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a study in 2011 that showed suppressors play a critical role in preventing severe hearing loss for sportsmen and other responsible gun users. By proposing that Virginia become one of the few states in the country to ban suppressors, the governor would be exposing an entire community of Virginians to preventable health risks.

Critics will say that no one needs a suppressor because earplugs exist. This ignores several basic facts. First, anyone using a firearm should wear traditional hearing protection. Guns are loud, and devices like earplugs and earmuffs should be used in conjunction with suppressors, not instead. Just because airbags exist doesn’t mean we shouldn’t wear seatbelts. The same is true for traditional hearing protection and suppressors.

However, studies have shown that 70 percent to 80 percent of hunters never wear hearing protection. Not sometimes — 70 percent to 80 percent of hunters never wear hearing protection. Why? Because hunters are safer when they are able to remain aware of their surroundings. Suppressors allow hunters to maintain full situational awareness while still protecting their hearing, simultaneously increasing safety for hunters and non-hunters alike.

In fact, Democratic candidate for president and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is one of three Democratic governors who has signed a pro-suppressor bill into law in recent years. He did so because, in his own words, “The use of suppressors for hunting, when hunters cannot wear ear protection because they need to be aware of their surroundings, can help protect against hearing loss. This is especially true for our younger hunters.”

However, instead of listening to fellow Democratic leaders who have educated themselves on this issue, Mr. Northam, Mrs. Wexton and Mr. Menendez are misleading Americans by echoing the talking points of anti-gun interest groups. These groups claim, for example, that suppressors “silence” a gunshot, making it extremely hard for responding law enforcement to hear. That is empirically false.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a suppressor only lowers the sound level of a gunshot to that of a jackhammer striking cement. Why would anyone in their right mind believe a politician who tells you that a noise as loud as a jackhammer is too quiet to hear?

Even with suppressors, police are still able to track and localize gunfire with existing ShotSpotter technology. For the very few criminals who do use suppressors, severe federal penalties are already in place.

Suppressors aren’t the issue; misinformation is. It’s time we stopped listening to the peddlers of misinformation who blame these inert devices for the actions of violent criminals. Even Mr. Northam acknowledges that the anti-gun agenda that he is promoting would have done nothing to prevent the tragedy in Virginia Beach. It also does nothing to target criminals. It would, however, put the health and safety of law-abiding Virginians at risk.

It’s our hope that the facts, common-sense and a commitment to public health will prevail in the weeks ahead as the Virginia General Assembly and Congress consider these misguided proposals.

• Knox Williams is the president and executive director of the American Suppressor Association.

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