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

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

346 replies on “Noise suppressors on firearms”

  1. Will,

    Thanks for asking! I find the idea of gun silencers dangerous and unsupportable. I can’t even begin to imagine a good reason for having them. The only thing that comes to mind is protecting hearing at a shooting range–something that I’m sure a good set of ear protection can accomplish. Why are we not listening to our policemen on gun control? Why would we make their jobs of keeping us safe that much more difficult to do?

  2. This bill is madness. We should not support silencers and hearing protection is a pathetic red herring. Those notes are directly of NRA-ILA.

    I support gun ownership, especially of rifles and shotguns. I find that in an urbanized society, even justifying handgun ownership based on the 2nd amendment is weak.

    Thank you for your common sense response.

    1. Pretty ironic statement from someone who pretends to support gun ownership. By the way they are suppressors not silencers. To much movie watching I guess.

  3. Hi Will,

    I totally support your position on this bill. I am sorry to hear about hearing loss issues that come from shooting, but deciding to own a gun and use it is a personal choice. Thus it’s up to them to figure out how best to protect their hearing and there are many viable solutions. I don’t want any law that makes it more difficult for our officers to do their already challenging jobs.

  4. Will –
    I could not agree more with your position on silencers. The argument that “lawful gun users are not committing crimes” is nothing more than a definition. In addition to the problem of silencers getting out of “lawful” hands once they are in circulation, there’s the fact that silencers may make it easier and potentially more tempting for lawful gun users to become unlawful users. Allowing silencers would be similar to removing serial numbers – making unlawful gun activity harder to track, and harder to distinguish from lawful behavior both before the fact and after. I grew up with guns and hunting and never had or even saw a silencer; they are not part of reasonable, lawful gun use.

  5. Will:

    This is just another NRA sanctioned campaign to bring more guns, ammo and gun-related devices into all communities in the US.

    The second amendment does not provide for the unlimited availability of guns with or without silencers. Advocacy for silencers as a Second Amendment right is simple BS.

    The 1926 law should remain in-place and the legislature should work to reduce further gun availability in this state. Otherwise the NRA-driven madness will increase further the epidemic of gun-related deaths in the US.

  6. NO SILENCERS!!!!!!! ONLY people doing things they shouldn’t want this bill.

  7. Guns don’t kill people. People who have bumper stickers that say “Guns Don’t Kill People” kill people.

  8. What is the rational reason for this? Cannot be helpful to police or public safety. The letter supporting this, change notes the second amendment., which I recall begins with the words a “well regulated militia.” And Scalia’s. arguments in Heller noted the need for regulations although it was not spelled out. Second Ammendment has no bearing in this debate.But public safety does and I do not see how this proposal accomplishes this goal.

    1. George Mason, one of the Virginians who refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights, said: “Who are the Militia? They consist now of the whole people.” Likewise, the Federal Farmer, one of the most important Anti-Federalist opponents of the Constitution, referred to a “militia, when properly formed, [as] in fact the people themselves.”

  9. I’m a physician and an avid recreational and competition shooter. I shoot several thousands of rounds a year.
    Most of the comments here seem to be driven by emotion with little regard to the facts regarding suppressors.
    Shooting a handgun with a mounted suppressor is still EXTREMELY loud. A rifle is louder still. There is no hiding the audible report of a suppressed firearm, even from several hundred yards away. If your only experience with suppressors are “Hollywood silencers” then you should probably not interject yourselves into this discussion.

    1. Excellently put Doctor! Nice to hear some sanity once in a awhile. Especially when it comes to making law that we all have to live by. The ignorance by those making comments and especially our “law Makers” is astonishing. I could of told you where 99% of the State legislators would come down on this issue before they heard any testimony. Its insane that we are making law based on what people see in the movies or strict adherence to an ideology. I hope people wake up some day. Have a great day

      1. Doctor Schmocter, Why does J.J. Lee have to tell us he’s a doctor, except to flaunt his arrogance.

        He reminds me of Dr. Walter Palmer

  10. Dear Senator, Please do not vote for either bill. This time of polarized and polarizing opinion on many topics has moved me to “try to see the wisdom of this proposed legislation.” I have read all the pro’s and con’s in your column. And I have canvassed the hunters in my extended family both inside MA and beyond. They and I see danger in hunting, urban, and suburban situations. Thank you for your vigilance on this issue.

  11. Please do not back down on your opposition to the legalization of gun silencers. If we can’t keep guns and ammunition out of the hands of murderers how can we expect to keep the gun silencers out of their hands? I can only imagine how many gunshot victims will drop in a crowded setting before the cause and direction of the shots fired are known. Common sense measures for the health and safety of the public must take precedence over the ease and comfort of individual law abiding gun owners.

  12. Let’s silence the planes first.

    Next, after silencers for guns. Let’s allow arming of personal drones, silent ones. Then those wanting to target practice don’t even have to hold the gun in hand.

  13. I totally support your position on this issue. I was astonished at the idea. I am writing to make sure that you hear from what I think would be the majority opinion.

  14. I am a licensed firearm owner and I regularly use them at my clubs range. Firearms of almost any caliber will produce more than 140 dB when discharged. Exposure to noise greater than 140-dB can permanently damage hearing. The noise level produced by firearms discharge in an indoor range is greatly magnified. Adequate hearing protection is required at all times. I would most definitely use a noise suppressor if they were available. If they are sold in MA, they should be regulated exactly the same as all firearms. They should only be permitted for sale to licensed firearms owners and should be serialized and recorded to the owner the same as any firearm sold in the state. If they are lost, stolen or transferred in ownership, then the suppressor should require the same strict adherence to the laws as a firearm. The vast majority of the crimes being committed with firearms in MA are with illegal ones brought into this state from outside sources. Make no mistake, MA has some of the very strictest firearms laws in the country. Most people in this state do not know how restrictive they really are because they are not familiar with the laws. Almost any violation of MA firearm laws will result in a felony offense with the most serious consequences. If the courts would fully enforced the laws already in place, I know we would have far less illegal firearms on the street. Possession of an illegal firearm is a felony and should always result in full prosecution under the law.

    1. You can’t intelligently argue that (1) possession of an unauthorized silencer “would” be punishable by law while also admitting that (2) even current laws aren’t adequately enforced.

      Any device that encourages unlawful firearm usage, hinders detection, and facilitates escape doesn’t benefit society in any measurable way when compared to the carnage of assault and murder caused by law-breakers who all to often are spur-of-the-moment, crime-of-passion fanatics acting on the crudest of impulses.

      1. Ned, if suppressors helped encourage crimes of passion or encourages crime in any way, shape or form, then the 42 states that have legalized suppressors would surely know. Suppressors are an NFA (National Firearms Act) regulated item. In the past 10 years there has been about 1 crime committed by ANY NFA-regulated item. You have been watching too many Hollywood movies.

        The fact of the matter is that any criminal who wanted to be bothered to “suppress” their gunshots could EASILY go out and buy a fram oil filter and stick it on their threaded barrel for $30. The fact that they don’t shows that they have no desire to.

        1. On any topic as reckless and lethal as firearm suppressors, I respect the wisdom and experience of law enforcement experts, not movies, hobbyists, lobbyists, or hunters for whom shooting is “fun.”

          The real world experiences of peace officers easily trounce your selective and misleading statistics.

          The fact that people CAN but DON’T buy automotive oil filters and CAN but DON’T adapt them to work as firearm noise suppressors is irrelevant.

          What is relevant is what law enforcement officials say: shooters using firearms with pre-installed suppressors are harder to detect, track, trace, and apprehend.

          1. There are many law enforcement officials who would also like to make it far easier to wire tap, search your phone and monitor your internet usage.

      2. Why not? If you were to be found by a law enforcement officer in the state of MA with a single round of ammunition in your pocket and you did not have a firearm license, you would have serious problems.
        The unlawful possession of ammunition is a crime governed by M.G.L 269 section 10 (h). This law makes the unlawful carrying of ammunition a criminal offense that is punishable by up to two years in the house of corrections or a fine of up to $500.
        The laws are in place. They are more than strict enough to deter non-compliance. Its lack of full enforcement by so many judges in the court system that’s the problem.

  15. I am in full agreement with your position as stated. Thanks for taking a clear and firm position and, at the same time, not vilifying those who think differently.

  16. Thank you for your firm opposition to this. I agree with your position that MA should not legalize gun silencers.

  17. There is ONE — and ONLY ONE — reason to silence a firearm: to commit crime and escape detection.

    Claiming that only “lawful” users will use them does not avoid the ugly truth that any lawful user can become an unlawful user in an instant.

    No lawful citizen needs such a law, and all of society is better off without it.

  18. I agree Will – think your response to the mass mailing was too polite. I qualified on the M-1 rifle in the army, and I know what the noise is like – not enough to affect hearing if used occasionally as in hunting. People have been hunting with guns for a few hundred years. Trap shooting with shotguns has been going on for a hundred years. That makes the current thing about silencers look ridiculous. You’re welcome to to forward the above text to anyone.

  19. There is no good argument for it. Being a law enforcement officer is hard enough as it. We don’t need to make it harder. No on Silencers.

  20. I agree with you Will. I hope you will not feel compelled to support silencers.

  21. Hobbyists and hunters who worry that their pastime is ruining their hearing should realize the obvious truth, and consider a healthier pastime.

    Any animal that gets shot in its vital organs — and then bleeds to death — suffers just as much as any human in similar circumstances. The pain and fear are excruciating, intolerable, and inhumane. Except for herd control measures under trained wildlife experts to reduce starvation, there is no moral justification for hunting defenseless creatures to their death this way.

    Calling hunting a “food-gathering” and “a hobby” and “a sport” and “entertainment” is the most extreme case of euphemism and hypocrisy.

    1. Mr. Flaherty obviously thinks the steer that provided his last steak dinner felt no pain or fear before it was hygeinically packaged in styrofoam and plastic wrap for him to purchase.

      I am fairly certain that the hunter has a much better understanding about food and its origins than does Mr. Flaherty. He may wish to reconsider his “extreme case of euphemism and hypocrisy” crack.

      1. It’s precisely because of the pain and fear suffered by animals at slaughter that I stopped eating flesh foods decades ago, and never resumed.

        For people who lack the humanity to stop murdering animals, there are other overwhelming reasons to do so.

        1. Animal-based foods worsen climate change.
        2. Animal-based foods hasten human extinction (from climate change).
        3. Planet Earth can support far more people eating plants than it can people eating animals.
        4. Animal-based foods consume far more land, water, energy, and other resources than plant-based foods.
        5. Farmable land and drinkable water are increasingly causing modern civil unrest and wars.

        1. Definition of murder: The unlawful killing of a human being. We do not murder cattle ( unless you belong to PETA) Your nonsense is right out of the PETA manual Page 17

    2. The NRA receives about 85% of its funding from members. The remaining 15% does, in part, come from gun manufacturers. However, if you polled the members, I’m quite sure they’d be happy about that other 15%. After all, gun owners and gun manufacturers have a rather symbiotic relationship. Gun owners can’t own guns if none are manufactured.

      Next “gun violence”, as it’s typically reported is made up of 33K deaths which includes 2/3 suicides. If you reduce that number but the overall suicide rate remains the same, was there any benefit (simply because the suicide wasn’t by gun)?

      Looking at the remaining, which is murders, the vast majority of that is due to inner city gang violence. Bans on suppressors aren’t going to help solve that problem one iota.

  22. Changing the law won’t make suppressors any easier to purchase. They are federally regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934. Purchase of EVERY SINGLE suppressor must be approved by the ATF and requires a $200 federal “tax stamp” above and beyond the cost of the suppressor itself.

    You simply want not find these things on the street corner.

    As for making them “quieter,” well, that’s relative. The real world is not Hollywood where they are portrayed as making a “whiff.” In the real world, a “silenced” pistol is still about as loud as a jet taking off from Logan. Check with MassPort for the list of complaints from the residents of East Canbridge or Winthrop if you want to understand how loud that is.

  23. Automobiles have suppressors, they are called mufflers,and you can still hear them coming down the road. Law enforcement have no problem finding automobiles. In most of Europe it is customary that you use a suppressor to target shoot and hunt. Senator Brownsberger, Have you ever fired a weapon with a suppressor attached? If you did, you would know that the sound is moderated, not eliminated. Suppressors are legal to possess in 41 states. With alot of Jumping through federal hoops

  24. They are actually called Suppressors because they suppress the noise to hearing safe levels not silencers. They far from silence a handgun or rifle. I all the Hyperbole about how this will allow people to use a gun undetected. Balderdash! You really should learn something about what you are talking about before commenting. By the way people just ever so slightly to our north in NH and many other states allow suppressors and there is no evidence of them increasing crime or that criminal use them when committing crimes.

    Wake up people!

  25. I heard Chief Ryan speak strongly about not supporting silencers aka suppressors as by decreasing the noise it will make it harder to get to the scene of a crime quickly (if the gunshot isn’t heard) and in one recent case near Alewife, save a life. And I heard another individual suggest we support the manufacturers of ear protectors rather than silencers. I own a pair of ear protectors and they work well. Silencers support getting away with shooting something or someone so I applaud your decision.

  26. I am strongly opposed to silencers. The arms our founding fathers were defending were muskets, not automatic weapons. I am greatly concerned about the gun violence in our country and the impact it has on the lives of women and children.

    1. Correction – suppressors not silencers. The founding fathers were talking about firearms in common use at the time. Today we have more modern firearms in common use.
      Should we apply your logic of what was available at the time the amendments were written to all other amendments and laws ?
      Do you really think they had no expectation that newer and better things would be developed into the future even during their lifetime.

      Wake up people!

    2. Using this argument, you could say that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to things written on computers, since they didn’t exist at the time it was written. It’s a fallacy.

      1. I dont think James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, or George Washington intended our Democracy to be beholden to special interests like the gun lobby who use industry money to lobby for unpopular legislation. I want to feel secure walking unarmed down the streets in any American town. I don’t, and that is because our governments unlike nearly every other country in the world has allowed the plague of gun violence to take over our communities. The gun lobby in the name of patriotism feeds an insatiable paranoia that undermines the security and safety of our citizens. So please, save us your constitutional sophistries.

        1. The NRA receives about 85% of its funding from members. The remaining 15% does, in part, come from gun manufacturers. However, if you polled the members, I’m quite sure they’d be happy about that other 15%. After all, gun owners and gun manufacturers have a rather symbiotic relationship. Gun owners can’t own guns if none are manufactured.

          Next “gun violence”, as it’s typically reported is made up of 33K deaths which includes 2/3 suicides. If you reduce that number but the overall suicide rate remains the same, was there any benefit (simply because the suicide wasn’t by gun)?

          Looking at the remaining, which is murders, the vast majority of that is due to inner city gang violence. Bans on suppressors aren’t going to help solve that problem one iota.

  27. Dear Senator, I do agree with your logic and conclusion. The input from police enforcement is indeed the higher concern and also considering reasonable alternatives are available to sportsmen. Nicely stated!

    As always, with thanks for your request for my input, best regards! Phil Stefanini

  28. I agree that quieter guns would help criminals, and do NOT support legalizing gun silencers. There is already too much gun violence in the USA to risk this.

  29. Please oppose H 763 and H 789. Legalizing firearm silencers is a threat to the public health.

  30. How many of the emotionally based responses here are offered by the very same people that complain about long established legal gun ranges being too loud in an effort to get them closed down? You guys hit all the buzz words without ever actually touching a fact, lol… well done.

  31. I agree with and support your POV on this topic. Silencers aren’t going to solve any of our city’s / state’s gun violence problem and I can’t think of any reason they would be beneficial in any circumstance.

    So, please do not vote to pass House 763 and House 789 to repeal G.L., s.10A.

    1. I am opposed to House bill 763 and 789, G.L. S10A. Please vote against them.
      Ethel Hamann

  32. Hello,
    I understand about protecting hearing, and I think it’s very important to advocate for appropriate gear to protect hearing. However, I do not think silencers are necessary nor appropriate for our communities here in MA. I think it is too dangerous and puts too many at risk. I urge you to maintain your stance against legalizing silencers.
    Thank you

  33. Senator,

    Your email seems to indicate that you have already made up your mind on the matter. I am not sure why you are soliciting input.

    Sherif Hashem

  34. I agree with your assessment as summarized above.
    Furthermore, I would like to add that NO ONE except for law enforcement should have access or possession of guns at all, especially the kinds of guns that could use silencers.

  35. Dear Senator Brownsberger:

    For years hunters have gotten by with cotton stuffed in their ears or noise suppressing headgear. The idea that the silencers are needed for protection is pure flapdoodle.

    Is ALEC sneaking into the State House? Several southern states are now legalizing silencers using the same argument that they are needed by hunters. Both Texas and Oklahoma have passed legislation using the canned wording provided by ALEC. Now, coming from Texas, and I love it with all my heart, but the Lege has some certifiable dimwits in its hallowed halls.

  36. For hunters, not hearing a gun could pose a problem for other hunters in the area. This bill, at best, is unnecessary, and at worst, could lead to countless new deaths.

  37. I completely agree with your stand on this question: No to legalizing gun silencers.
    Thank you, Will, for once again seeking the views of your constituents. (And I agree with those who suspect that the 1000+ emails you got were surely orchestrated by the NRA.)

  38. These “generated’ letters do not provide any valid reason for legalizing suppressors. The vital phrase in the letter is : “law-abiding citizens”. We can’t even enforce the laws we have to protect people from gunshots. (NYTimes 6/13/16): “In the United States, the death rate from gun homicides is about 31 per million people — the equivalent of 27 people shot dead every day of the year.” Too many guns, too many deaths. Suppressors are beside the point and do NOT need to be made legal and more accessible. “Stick to your guns” (!) and vote NO. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis!

  39. No way! If you give an inch, they will take a mile. To me this legislation has the stink of outside interest groups lobbying for something that citizens in our state do not and would not support. Just say no!

  40. Absolutely I am against legalizing silencers. I completely agree that there are other ways to protect ears and silencers are potentially very effective weapons of crime, particularly murder. As far as I know the point of silencers is to make gun shots harder to detect. The job of keeping our streets and homes safe is hard enough as it is.

  41. I am totally against this legislation, and fully support you. Feels like the NRA is biting at our Massachusetts heels. And for what? Noise pollution? I think not.

  42. I agree with your perspective. Safety first
    for law enforcement and law abiding citizens.

  43. No, we do not need to make silencers legal. Thank you for your no vote. Judge Severlin Singleton (retired)

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