House GOP-led hearing on deregulation of gun silencers cancelled after shooting

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), who was at the baseball game, introduced a measure to make it easier to purchase gun silencers.

A silencer is displayed at Ed’s Public Safety gun shop in Stockbridge, Ga. For decades, buying a silencer for a firearm has been as difficult as buying a machine gun, requiring a background check that can take close to a year. Now the industry has renewed a push in Congress to ease those restrictions. CREDIT: AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane
A silencer is displayed at Ed’s Public Safety gun shop in Stockbridge, Ga. For decades, buying a silencer for a firearm has been as difficult as buying a machine gun, requiring a background check that can take close to a year. Now the industry has renewed a push in Congress to ease those restrictions. CREDIT: AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

After the shooting at a Congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning, the House cancelled a scheduled hearing in which a National Rifle Association leader was to push for the deregulation of gun silencers.

The GOP-sponsored bill up for debate in the House Natural Resources Committee, the Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE Act), would have removed gun silencers from the list of items regulated by the 1934 National Firearms Act.

Silencers — also referred to as suppressors by the gun lobby — reduce the noise emitted from firearms. Under current law, they are regulated as strictly as machine guns and short-barreled rifles, but the gun lobby claims that these regulations are costly and unnecessary. They argue it’s more important to protect law-abiding gun owners against potential hearing loss.

Opponents, meanwhile, claim that deregulation would lead to more gun violence.

“The proliferation of silencers would introduce a menacing new threat to our nation’s communities and our law enforcement professionals,” Sean Simons, deputy press secretary at Americans for Responsible Solutions, told The Trace.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), the lawmaker who introduced the Hearing Protection Act and included that legislation in the SHARE Act for debate, was at the Congressional baseball practice Wednesday morning but was not injured. On Tuesday, he tweeted that he was “very proud to be continuing to move the ball forward” on the deregulation of silencers.

Last week, Duncan held a “members only” gun silencer demonstration for his colleagues in Congress at the U.S. Capitol Police Range.

“Much has been said about the use, performance, noise, benefits and concerns of firearm suppressors,” he said in the invitation, provided to ThinkProgress. “Despite these arguments, many have never seen a suppressor in person.”

“This demonstration will illustrate how suppressors work, afford Members the opportunity to hear firsthand the reduction in noise, and provide a firsthand glimpse of the difference between a suppressed firearm and non-suppressed firearm,” he continued.

Wednesday’s hearing was scheduled to include testimony by NRA Director of Federal Affairs James Ouimet, Director of Conservation for Bass Pro Shops Rob Keck, and President of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Jeff Crane. The Democratic minority also called David Chipman, senior policy advisor for Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Molly Block, press secretary for the Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement Wednesday morning that “given today’s events… committee hearings are to be delayed” until further notice.

“Members of the Natural Resources Committee were also present at the shooting,” she said. “As additional information is gathered, we will have further updates. In the meantime our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved.”

Adam Sarvana, communications director for the Democrats on the committee, told ThinkProgress he would not comment on the cancellation. In the past, the Democrats have expressed their opposition to the legislation.

Democrats also claim the bill distracts from what they see as the more important issue: the need for gun safety measures to reduce gun violence in the United States, where the gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other developed countries.

The hearing would have been the first time the House directly addressed gun rights since President Trump took office, although the White House and Republican lawmakers have been pushing for weakened gun restrictions in the months since they took unified control of Washington.

The Trump administration has already taken steps to make it easier for both fugitives and the mentally ill to buy guns. Republicans in Congress have also introduced other legislation to allow for concealed carry reciprocity, which would authorize people without permits or training to carry firearms across state lines.

“A lot of this legislation is stuff written by lawmakers beholden to the gun lobby and they’ve just been waiting for a Republican president to sign it,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, told ThinkProgress. “If loose gun laws and more guns made us safer, we’d be the safest country in the world. Instead, we have the highest rate of gun violence of any developed nation.”