Illinois Democrats Offer Bill to Legalize Firearm Suppressors

 In firearms, Politics, Technology

Dual bills in both the Illinois House and Senate have been introduced by democrats to make Illinois the 39th state to allow citizens to own and use firearm sound suppressors.

You read that right.  The world is upside down, pigs are flying, and hell must be freezing because Illinois,  home of Chicago with the most restrictive guns laws in the country, may soon allow citizens to own suppressors.

firearm suppressors

A rifle suppressor- Pierce engineering photo

Silencer Vs Suppressor

Who hasn’t seen the Hollywood depiction of the bad guy screwing the long metal ‘silencer’ onto the barrel of his pistol?  The ensuing sound is barely audible allowing the shooter to dispatch his victim with neighbors in the next room totally unaware.

In reality, it doesn’t work that way. A suppressor is not a silencer. When fired, the sound heard is generated by 2 factors. The first is the high pressure gases escaping from the muzzle. That’s the gunshot everyone hears. This sound can be ‘suppressed’ or muffled by controlling the rate and direction the gases expand. Think of a suppressor working much like the muffler on your car.

The second ‘noise’ heard is actually a sonic boom. When bullets travel faster than the speed of sound, 1120 feet per second or 760 miles per hour, the crack heard as the bullet flies through the air is no different from the supersonic crack generated by high speed aircraft or how a bullwhip makes a crack.

No suppressor can moderate or alter this ‘crack’. For the shooter who wants a “silent” shot he must use subsonic loads.

Safety First

Firearm suppressors are a benefit to hunters and sport shooters by limiting hearing damage and loss.  State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, sponsor of the House legislation said,

 “There are a lot of veterans, a lot of hunters and shooters, who have suffered hearing loss. We’re just trying to move Illinois into the 21st century, like we did with concealed-carry.”

Knox Williams, president of the American Suppressor Association, agrees.  Williams says,

“Noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus are two of the most common afflictions for recreational shooters and hunters.  Walk into any gun store in the country, and you will see as many, or more, customers with hearing aids as without them.”

Police Dishonesty

But law enforcement officials disagree.  There is absolutely no evidence to support the assertion that suppressors will increase crime.  That doesn’t deter outspoken anti-gun advocate Illinois Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.  Chicago, the city with excessively restrictive gun laws yet one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, is located in Cook County.  Of the proposed bill, Sheriff Dart told reporters,

“Frequently the telephone calls that come in to law enforcement about problems that occur on streets come from neighbors and the like who have heard gunshots out there; it draws law enforcement to the area where the shots were fired from.   If there was none of that, it would decrease the ability for law enforcement to get to a location and quickly find out what happened and maybe the people who did it are still in the general area? Yeah, it would hurt.”

A poor approach

So to Sheriff Dart, if you can’t hear the shot, you can’t report the shot to police, thus decreasing law enforcement’s ability to solve crime.   Ah…WHAT!?  Here’s a thought, try keeping the guns from the criminals so they wouldn’t be firing the shots in the first place.

If the bill is approved, suppressors are still subject to the provisions of the National Firearms Act.  To legally obtain and own a suppressor, the purchaser must subject himself to an extensive background check, pay a $200 tax per suppressor, and be approved by the chief law enforcement officer in the jurisdiction.

A 2007 study found silencer use in crime is rare.  They’ve been around since the 1930s, but now silencers are legal in 40 states and the fastest growing sector of the gun industry.

With shootings in Chicago up 14 percent over last year to 2500,  Sheriff Dart continues his fear mongering seeing no benefit to legalizing suppressors.  Dart said,

“Would it further embolden people? Sure it would, how would it not, part and parcel of shootings is that people are trying not to get caught so now you are infecting something that increases the chances that you won’t get caught.”

“It seems to me that in this day and age, the downside is just too great.”

The stats

According to March 2014 statistics from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Illinois has just 1,348 NFA-registered suppressors, primarily in use by law enforcement. As a comparison, Pennsylvania, with a virtually identical population size and less stringent suppressor regulations, has some 20,629 devices registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Meanwhile, Illinois’s neighbor to the East, Indiana, although with half the population, has 22,223 suppressors on file.

The Illinois House and Senate bills have been referred to the Rules and Assignments committees respectively.   Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, R, has not commented on the proposed legislation.

But Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said he “will carefully evaluate all proposals” for changes to gun laws.

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