Friday, September 2, 2011

Silence! ... We concur.

As much as the US is famous for having some of the developed world's most liberal firearms laws, we have a few really perplexing restrictions that aren't common elsewhere. One is our very strict regulation of suppressors. Suppressors aren't over-the-counter items everywhere, but they're unregulated in several European countries, and no more regulated than the guns they fit in several more. It's very strange for the US to have extreme federal restrictions and many state-level prohibitions on a firearms accessory that you freely mail-order in France.

Right now, most gun rights groups think it's too early to start attacking the no-big-deal-but-seriously-bad-PR guns and accessories restricted during the Great Failed Experiment of 20th century gun control, but there's still a nascent movement to start rolling back state restrictions on suppressors. Since their primary purposes outside Hollywood are safety and courtesy, this doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Thing is, I think we should be pushing safety harder than courtesy.

Sebastian makes one of the common arguments for courtesy:

The demonization of silencers, or more accurately, suppressors, never made a whole lot of sense, especially when you consider noise complaints are the biggest issue shooting ranges face, especially places like around here, which have numerous suburban and exurban shooting ranges, with plenty of neighbors in earshot.

I've never been a great fan of this argument. It's true that ranges in developing, previously rural areas commonly have problems with new urban transplants who move in next to a shooting range, then crusade to get it closed down because they don't like hearing gunshots. But implying that suppressor deregulation is a reasonable way to address the issue strikes me as an undesirable road to go down.

And I expect a lot of potential allies would be as uncomfortable with it as I am, since this logic would seem to lead to the conclusion that, when yuppies move into a neighborhood with a range, the natural compromise that the gun lobby pushed for after all is to require that every gun fired at the range be suppressed. That would be a cheaper proposition in a nation with a free market in suppressors, but it still requires gunsmithing on almost all current firearms and alterations to antiques, and puts revolver shooters in a bind.

I think a much better strategy (and one that addresses a need most people can see more vividly than range litigation) is to educate people about the dangers of hearing loss from using unsuppressed firearms for self defense inside the home. I think most people can understand that concern, and most reasonable folks will agree that if you have a right to self defense, you shouldn’t be forced to risk your hearing to exercise it. I'm prepared to risk permanent hearing loss where the alternative is letting an intruder harm me or my family, but I'd much rather put a muffler on my damned gun and not have to make that sacrifice.

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