Noise suppressors on firearms

I’ve been hearing from people asking me to legalize gun silencers. It’s not something I want to do.

Over the past week, I’ve gotten approximately 1200 emails (mostly from outside my district) along the following lines:

As a law-abiding Second Amendment supporter in Massachusetts, I urge you to please support both H.763 and H.789.

H.763 and H.789 are similar bills which would legalize firearm suppressor possession in the Bay State. Both H.763 and H.789 would repeal the current prohibition for the use and possession of firearm suppressors and replace the removed section with a provision that would allow the possession of these devices by law-abiding citizens.

Once again, as your constituent, I urge you to please support H.763 and H.789. Thank you.

After hearing on the issue, I have responded as follows:

Thanks for writing about the suppressor legislation.

I have received over 1000 emails on the subject and yesterday, I listened carefully to lengthy testimony on this issue from both proponents and opponents.

I am pretty convinced at this stage that I should not support this legislation.

Urban law enforcement personnel are firmly opposed — making gunshots quieter makes them harder to detect. We heard testimony that shot detectors can detect suppressed shots, but I did not find that testimony credible. The suppressors have to reduce the range and sensitivity of detectors, even if they do not prevent detection of nearby shots. Even if the shot detectors do not degrade, the detector that most people use, the ear, certainly will be less able to detect shots from a distance.

I know that lawful gun users are mostly not the ones committing crime. But, we have a huge struggle on our hands to contain urban violence and we do not want to bring more suppressors into circulation in our state.

I understand the benefits for shooters in terms of hearing loss. Shooters should wear hearing protection and they have many good options for that.

I sympathize with hunters, who naturally do want to hear everything around them. But, at least in our state, that concern does not outweigh the higher concern about urban violence.

House 763 and House 789 would both repeal G.L., s.10A. That section has been on the books in Massachusetts since 1926.

To me, it is common sense that making guns quieter will make it easier to get away with murder. Granted that legal gun owners are not the ones most likely to commit crime, but why would we want to put more of the devices into circulation in Massachusetts? There is always a risk of diversion.

Response to comments, October 13, 10:30PM

Thanks to all who have weighed in here. And kudos to Mr. Carson for his very thoughtful comments in a separate post.

I just want to respond to one comment that often gets repeated: Suppressors are not silencers. Guns are still very loud with suppressors attached. Got it. But there certainly could be cases where being somewhat less loud would allow a shooting to continue for longer before it was detected (from a distance or through walls).

I also understand that suppressors do have real health benefits — so we are balancing speculative public safety benefits against clear shooter health benefits. But at least for now, I’m coming down on the side of broader public risk reduction.

I also understand that suppressors are hard to get, but that doesn’t mean that someone in a licensed person’s household won’t get them indirectly as in Sandy Hook. Likely? Maybe not, but it only takes one to do a lot of damage.

I’m closing this thread to comment, but if you can always reach me at william.brownsberger@masenate.gov.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

346 replies on “Noise suppressors on firearms”

  1. Two questions:

    What plausible non-criminal use is there for a silencer?

    What is the source of these emails — are they all identical?

  2. Will, over what period of time did you receive 1200 messages supporting silencers? Sounds to me like this was a coordinated letter writing campaign and probably does not represent a large segment of your constituents.

    Also, let’s not call them suppressors. Silencers is what most people know these as and suppressors is just a way to make the bill more obscure.

    1. Except that the correct term for them is “suppressors” and they don’t silence anything. Far from it.

  3. I agree, the prohibition should remain in place. Silenced gunshots make things far more difficult for law enforcement, and also for those of us in the community that need to hear the gunshots in order to call law enforcement in the first place.

  4. As a Boston resident I do not think it’s a good idea to have people walking around with silencers on their pistols. I can’t think of any compelling reason why any law abiding gun owner would want or need such a device.

  5. You’re absolutely right, Will. I back your decision to block these proposal. There is only one justification to use a suppressor (silencer) and that’s so other people can hear you killing.

  6. After the violence we’ve seen in Boston, just this week alone, we need MORE controls on guns, rather than less. (My college roommate was murdered by someone who bought a handgun on the street in D.C. so I know all too well how this carnage affects a family.) Why enact a law that law enforcement doesn’t support? Massachusetts has less gun violence than many other states, probably because we have stricter laws. Let’s keep it that way.Thanks for taking a strong stand against this bill.

  7. Dear God, no.

    However I would support legislation requiring full disclosure of all paid lobbying efforts behind each legislative proposal.

  8. I have a LTC and go to the range. Nonetheless, I don’t see the point in legalizing silencers. Who will that protect? What rights are protected? Regulation is not a bad word.

    1. Have you ever been to a range where they are in use? As a range officer, I know they only somewhat reduce the noise level to where it helps protect MY hearing … like having a muffler on your lawn mower engine.

  9. I am NOT in support of this. There is no reason for a silencer for someone using a gun. It ahould ve abundantly clear if someone uses one and if they are using them legally no reason to silence them. And if they are not using them legally, all the more reason not to have a silencer.

  10. Will, I agree with your conclusion. This is not about hearing loss for law-abiding gun owners, not when it makes it more difficult to detect gunshots in violent areas. They have enough problems without adding this.

    To the gun owners: It’s not always about you. We live in a broader society and need to prioritize our problems and solutions. Gun violence is a major problem in some areas, and it must be addressed before your hearing loss. Buy some ear protectors.

    Also, whose lobby is behind this?

  11. Suppressors do not by any means “silence” a firearm, but bring it down to a level that is safer for the operator. The Hollywood image of the assassin firing a whisper-quiet bullet into his target is just that: Hollywood. Suppressed firearms are still extremely loud, and “shot-spotter” system still have no issues locating them.

    This really is about hearing protection and the rights of law-abiding citizens.

  12. I am opposed to this proposal to allow gun silencers. Permitting silencers makes it easier to use guns for bad purposes. It’s a public safety issue. To the extent shooters are concerned about hearing damage from the noise of gunfire, good ear protection is available. And I don’t think there is a Second Amendment issue. The right to bear arms is not unlimited-there is no entitlement to to a firearms ID card or a license to carry. Continuing the ban on silencers is an entirely appropriate exercise of the Legislature’s authority.

  13. The loud noise a gun makes alerts everyone and that’s a good thing. Silencers weren’t created to save anyone’s ear discomfort. They were created to kill people silently. I would hope common sense prevails here. No law abiding citizen needs a silencer and law abiding citizens should understand the dangers silencers present to society.

  14. Allowing silencers would be.crazy!! Maybe we should all drive cars without horns. We are lucky to live in a state with strict gun control laws. This is no time to change.

    Clearly this a well planned campaign by the NRA to weaken our laws.

    MA should stand firmly against this and any other attempt to weaken our laws.

    Thanks for standing up for the majority who have now have so many outrageous things to oppose that some very bad ones get lost in the noise.
    Sincerely
    Berl Hartman

    1. Berl,

      I think the more correct comparison would be – cars without mufflers, not horns. And that kind of changes the entire dynamic, doesn’t it?

      Regards,

      John

      1. No, John, muffler-less vehicles are no comparison to suppressor-less firearms.

        Here’s why.

        Muffler-less vehicles can be nuisances, but loud engines are never a crime scene requiring public safety officers and ambulances to haul away victims of assault or murder.

        Suppressor-less guns, on the other hand, always consume officer resources, and often are involved in assault or murder.

  15. No on silencers.

    The “hearing loss” is nonsense, just an excuse to push for it.

  16. The criminals can get them anyway. If they WANTED to use them, they just would obtained from another state where they are legal to own. It also is VERY easy to manufacture single use (and sometimes a few more) silencers. Yet they are NEVER used in criminal activity. Why? Because a quick get away is easier and more effective than trying to hide the sound. Additionally Silencers reduce the sound level by only approx. 20-30 decibels. Meaning a firearm with a suppressor is now STILL louder than the Permissible Exposure Limits per OSHA for 1 hour of exposure. It would still be louder than a Harley, louder than a jackhammer. Contrary to what Hollywood would like you to believe, they do NOT make it relatively undetectable. But this reduction at least could save some hearing, since that PLUS the use of Hearing Protection will reduce you cumulative exposure.

  17. I am a MA resident, but am a range officer in a range just over the border in NH where some members do have noise suppressors. So called “Silencers” do NOT eliminate the noise as hollywood would have you believe. Think of it as the difference between running a lawn mower with and without a muffler. It is still plenty loud, but not in the “Permanently Damage My Hearing” range. Would you vote for legislation requiring everyone to remove the muffler from their mower or snow blower?

    They also help to make ranges better neighbors by doing our part to keep noise levels down.

  18. Although NOT a gun owner, I do support the 2nd amendment and a citizen’s right to own and use guns. However, I feel that it is imperative that government at ALL levels implement very strong gun control, like control over hand guns and automatic weapons of ALL kinds. Along with this kind of control my feeling is that there should also be regulations over gun silencers.

    Thank you: I support your position on this issue!

  19. As the sign says on the garage facing our direction, “WE’RE NOT ANTI-GUN, WE’RE FOR LIFE”. How do silencers possibly improve our life while anti-noise pollution legislation is lagging.

    As I write, the sounds of an un-muffled jackhammer on the Mass. Ave. bridge over Commonwealth Ave. is polluting our auditory environment. Why not address this all-pervasive human health issue rather than spend time and energy debating silencer proposals?

  20. This does seem like a huge challenge in tackling urban gun violence. Please do not support.

  21. Please support H763 and H789. Suppressors are physically large and will make guns hard to conceal and hard to use. Suppressors are like guns in that laws will not stop criminals from getting them. Laws against suppressors will only stop law-abiding citizens from getting them.

  22. Thank you for thoughtfully explaining your position; I agree with your conclusion to oppose the bills.

  23. People seemed to have covered all the arguments I would make against these bills except one: People legally protecting themselves or others with a gun would want to call as much attention to the incident as possible, to maximize the chance of a bystander calling the police. They would never want to use a silencer. (I’m picturing an armed security guard or someone else carrying a lot of money who is getting robbed. The robber might want a silencer, but the guard never would.)

    Also, calling the devices “suppressors” instead of “silencers”, even if technically correct, serves only to obscure the issues.

  24. I think it is way more important for everyone to hear a gunshot so they can protect themselves and call the police. I say no to legal silencers!

  25. I would like to hear from the other side as why they think silencers should be legal. What overwhelming benefit is there for everyone? The same policy applies to machine guns. Why can’t we have them? Because they are a threat to pretty much everyone and there’s no *need* for them. There’s no *need* for machine guns, just as there’s no *need* for silencers. Those people just *want* them. I had to explain the same thing for my nephew when he was 4: there’s a big difference between “want” and “need”. He didn’t need that new toy; he just wanted it. And you have to ask: What benefit is there to society if silencers were legal? At best, not much; at worse, I think crimes with guns would go up because there’s a better chance of getting away with it.

  26. I am definitely against silencers. Far too dangerous. And why is it a problem hunting? I don’t understand. And I agree, if hearing loss is a problem, wear protection. Or don’t shoot as often?

  27. I honestly understand both sides of this discussion, but in the end i have to side with repealing the ban on suppressors from an OSHA perspective. While those actively participating in shooting sports and activities have hearing protection, those of us in the surrounding area likely do not want to wear it in our every day lives.
    I disagree that it is common sense that making guns quieter will make it easier for people to commit murder as the sound has never seemed to affect the rates before. If a criminal wanted a quieter gun wouldn’t they just get a silencer from New Hampshire and drive across the boarder anyway? Also are they very expensive, can the common criminal even afford a $1,000 silencer? Is not like they are the guys in the movies in black suits driving Aston Martin’s.

    Back to sound quality: MA allows certified individuals to use firearms, this isn’t going to change. Why should we all have to be subject to obnoxious, some times anxiety exacerbating, sound pollution? I for one would rather this be a win win situation. Hunters/Shooters get to have their hobby and I get to enjoy my morning cup of coffee without hearing the local hunters rifle.

    I just wanted to add this, because i feel its important to show that high levels of noise can be detrimental to people’s health (whether they like shooting or not). OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an 8 hour day. The OSHA standard uses a 5 dBA exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by 5 dBA, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half. (Quote taken from Osha.gov)

    Thank you for listening!

  28. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    I am in complete support of your position against the legalization of silencers. While the vast majority of those who own guns may well do so with benign intent, there are certain types of firearms and accessories that are particularly suited to the commission of crimes, and these include silencers. We also do not allow ready access to armor-piercing bullets, fully-automatic weapons, and rocket-propelled grenades, even though some law-abiding citizens might find them to be fun toys, specifically because they are well-suited for criminal activity. Let’s keep silencers on that very sensible list.

  29. Are we talking about silencers for all types of guns? In general I don’t see why people can’t just wear hearing protection, but admit I don’t fully understand the issue.

  30. Hi Will,

    I totally agree with you.
    I think the proposal to allow silencers is totally ridiculous. Next thing you know somebody will propose a bill to allow nuclear “packages” on board buses, trains and planes, while allowing a Geiger counter blocker!…and you’ll have to prove it’s not a good idea.
    I don’t envy your job Will, but I do like the way you are doing it.
    Nicole

  31. Please do not support legalizing gun silencers.

    I appreciate your thoughts and the consistent nature with which you connect with your constituents on the issues.

  32. Dear Senator
    I support your opposition to him silencers. Thank you for alerting me to this effort. And thanks for standing up to the gun lobby
    Eugene Warner
    Belmont

  33. If I were in my home and heard a gun shot I would have time to call the police and do something to protect myself and my family. If I were walking down the street to shop and a shop owner had been robbed and shot I could go into the shop and be killed as well. This is common sense Gun silencers would cause more harm than benefits if there are any. I support you common sense and commitment to keeping us safe.

  34. 1) So when seconds count, a legal gun bearer must take the time to put hearing blockers in his ears before he fires back?
    2) We should let the whole neighborhood, including babies and little old ladies, be disturbed by gun fire which in no way threatens them.
    3) Crimes will be committed with or without silencers–duh. Makes no difference to the criminal.

  35. It is madness to allow silencers on guns. I’ve been a shooter since age 14, a hunter in my early years, former Sgt. Military Police, a member of rifle and pistol teams, a member of gun clubs. THERE IS NO LEGITIMATE NEED FOR CIVILIAN-OWNED SILENCERS. The rationale used by proponents is a phoney, simply another farfetched reach by the NRA to chip away at all gun restrictions across the country.

  36. I thoroughly agree with your analysis.

    I too was unpersuaded by the assertion, during testimony, that automated gunshot detectors would be just as able to pick up suppressed gunshots — the whole point of suppressors is to make the sound quieter. Far more plausible was the testimony that hearing gunshots can help people know to duck, hide, or run.

    The public health issue of hearing loss for recreational shooters who don’t want to wear hearing protection is far outweighed by the public safety issue of protecting people from being killed or maimed by gunfire.

  37. Will-

    I’m a US Marine Corps veteran (2000-2008) who served in Iraq. There is no practical or legal/constitutional argument to be made for legalizing silencers. These are implements that are used during covert military operations. I’ll go one step further: unlawful possession of a silencer should be a felony.

Comments are closed.