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. dear will: I am in total support of your position which wld NOT allow guns with silencers to be purchased in MA; in addition, I believe that individuals with serious mental health issues shld NOT be allowed to buy guns & in fact, many if not most of the most shocking deaths by guns hv been committed by inds w/mental health issues….i.e. the massacre of 23 school children in CN, Gabby Gifford, & many many more just recently in the news in MA; thank you for having the courage to stand up against this proposal ……Helen cox

  2. I agree. I too have sympathy for those who want to protect their hearing, but gun owners have
    other ways of protecting their hearing, though less convenient.

    This sets their convenience against everyone’s public safety.

  3. In principal I agree with your stance not to approve silencers.

    NB: I haven’t thought very much about this, so I don’t know if my suggestion below makes any sense.

    Would it make sense to allow silencers to be used only at firing ranges? I could see that helping people protect their hearing while limiting their use generally.

    However, would allowing ANY use open the door to flooding the market and thus making these devices available more widely and illegally?

    1. No. The ATF treats suppressors as strictly as they treat machine guns. If a person wants to own a suppressor, they have to, essentially, get permission from the ATF for every one they buy and that permission takes 6mo or more.

      Further, MA already requires a license to own a gun. That process is supposed to take 40 days by statute, but it often takes far more than that.

      I’m sorry to say, your comment here is indicative of how little understanding there is about gun laws.

  4. I don’t even understand the argument supporting silencers at all – Legal shooters should use hearing protection.

    I guess it’s nice when there’s an easy choice.

  5. It’s worth noting that many have said that law enforcement is against this. Specifically, that law enforcement is a few urban chiefs of police. Throughout the state, most chiefs of police actually give unrestricted LTCs those that apply and meet the criteria.

    “Unrestricted” means that people who have these LTCs can conceal carry a pistol. If these people are trusted to conceal carry a handgun out in public, not trusting them with a suppressor (which they wouldn’t be concealed carrying) is ridiculous.

  6. Will, I agree with both your reasoning and your conclusion with regard to silencers. I can conceive of no legitimate purpose served by making handguns quiet. I also wanted to voice my concerns about some legislation I heard described on NPR this a.m. re stun guns (apparently being proposed by C. Garry — my son’s Rep.) My sense is that such devices can, in fact, be dangerous to the person “stunned,” and I’m not comfortable with expanded vigilantism. — Helen G.

  7. Please hold the line on this important public safety issue. The sound of gunshots warn others in the area to take cover, and help the police identify where the shots are coming from. If a legal gun holder makes a legal shot and the police come to check them out they have nothing to worry about.

    Thank you for representing us so well!

  8. I agree with your thinking so far Will, and I hope you will vote No on H.763 and H.789. Keep public safety first. Thank you.

  9. The principal argument I have heard for allowing “silencers” is that some gun owners and hunters sometimes fail to use sensible hearing protection. Their foolishness is not a compelling reason to overrule the legitimate concerns of law enforcement officers and the general public. Loosening the restrictions on “silencers” is a bad idea, and sustaining the restrictions is not an encroachment on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

  10. I totally support your position on this issue, Will. You’ve articulated the arguments against legalizing gun silencers clearly and forcefully. The fact you received 1200 emails in a week – on the same subject – as well as the language of the emails, suggest that your office has become the target of a concerted gun lobby campaign.

  11. Will – thanks for your thoughtful comments. Mine are simply “Good Grief Charlie Brown!” We really can’t make urban shooting quieter… we need to make it go away.

  12. Sane people need to know just one fact: the NRA (National Rifle Association) that’s lobbying for firearm suppressors is the same NRA which never stops lobbying to put one gun in the hands of every school-age child.

    Every. School-age. Child.

  13. I completely agree with your conclusions and appreciate the thoroughness of your decision process. Thanks for keeping us so well informed and for taking well-considered stands on important issues.

  14. I agree with you, Will.. The above letter from a supporter of the repeal does not give any justification for the repeal, and that is probably because it is hard to come up with convincing reasons for a repeal.

    A barage of emails of the same ilk does not a case make.

    Please vote no. Thanks.

  15. I agree with you. Perhaps in a rural setting,where hunting is a way of life, but not in MA. Wear ear protection when using a gun for legal purposes.

  16. Silencers mask the terrible process of killing and maiming. First we have the secret of gun ownership, carrying guns secretly in public, and now the bill to silence them. People deserve to know how guns are being used in this state. Automatic weapons are not necessary for protection outside of the movies and military, or for hunting. Silencers are dangerous and another false equivalent in a no restrictions policy which is dead wrong–and not even envisioned by the Founders.

  17. Silencers should not be legal.
    Only properly registered guns should be legal.

  18. Please do not vote for this legislation. Horrible idea. Too many guns on the streets already, there isn’t any reason to make it easier to harm people.

  19. I’m entirely in agreement with you, Will: silencers should be suppressed.

  20. Gun Silencers:
    This is crazy!
    So we want criminals to be even more invisible. The people who support this have no common sense!
    They could be used as target practice and nobody would know. What exactly is supposed to be the advantage to silencers????!!!!

  21. Silencers should be illegal with the possible exception of law inforcement officers.

  22. Neither law should be passed. Period. Yes Police would find FINDING gunners and shooting’s in neighborhoods very difficult to locate where the gunner was and such criminals would rapidly adopt silencers to kill without being caught. WHERE do these nuts come up with this stuff? An argument for hunting rifles? No. No animal can react that fast to a bullet aimed at them so silencers on such, pointless.

  23. We dont want silencers! We want to hear the shot around the world. Michael and Elisabeth Lay

  24. The only people who need silencers are assassins or the Cosa Nostra. The number of deaths by firearms is horrific enough, but enabling guns to shoot silently — let’s have a little common sense here. Isn’t “conceal carry” bad enough? The violence produced by guns is the problem. Needing “silencers” is not.
    Vote NO.

  25. Mufflers are legal in 42 states with no measured effect on crime. The ATF/FBI/DoJ statistics indicate 15 or less crimes per year are committed in the entire country with mufflers.

    In the United Kingdom, where firearms are far more regulated to the point of a near total ban, the use of mufflers isn’t just legal but encouraged. It’s considered polite and proper there.

    I am greatly disappointed in the fearful ignorance and soft bigotry displayed by my fellow residents of the commonwealth in the absurd belief that somehow our state is less civilized than the majority of the country, or my former Queen’s dominion, and that legalization will lead to unfettered barbarism perpetrated by our fellow citizenry.

  26. I am vehementally OPPOSED to silencers. And I think guns should be banned. All guns. Have ranges and parks for gun users to rent guns

  27. I am OPPOSED to silencers. And I think guns should be banned. All guns. Have ranges and parks for gun users to rent guns

    1. Well than you can go move to a country whos government took all the peoples guns and let me know how well there doing over there.
      Ps im sure when some of the jewish were hurdled into caddle cars before they were burned alive thought they hadnt turned there arms in. Pick up a history book barbara!

  28. I definitely do NOT support legalizing silencers. They have few legitimate civilian uses and would be a boon to criminals.

    1. I got your response above in my email. 42 states allow suppressors to be legally owned for a reason. Your personal reasons Senator, should have no bearing on your support or decision to not support the bill. If it is something the people want, then it should be allowed. I am not buying the hype about criminals arming themselves with heavy cumbersome silencers being a problem. I don’t know why I am wasting my time with this, this state is clearly a lost cause. All you liberals will get what you deserve if you give up your freedoms.

      1. I hear New Hampshire is very nice and there are lots of places where you can shoot living things. MA has a lot of people (not necessarily liberals who despise our own freedoms. . . I think I have a right to hear a gun shot) who are not intimidated by the NRA. Including Senator Brownsberger.

        1. A suppressor will not stop you from hearing the shot(stop thinking Hollywood) it will suppress the noise to protect peoples hearing as ear protection is not always effective. If any of the anti gun crowd were the least bit educated on the subject they comment on, you may realize this. It is sad that the officials we elect do not represent us, they say they listen but control us instead. The NRA is not about intimidation.

  29. Thank you, Will.

    If someone is shooting, I want to know it — both in my neighborhood and in a public place (such as a school). The faster we are aware, the faster we can call the police to intervene if need be.

    And when in the woods, too, I want to know if someone’s shooting. Many of us don’t make a point of wearing orange when in the woods — assuming the visibility isn’t blocked by trees or thickets.

    BTAW — I question the bona fides of people who suggest you should be unseated over this issue!

  30. Will, please hold to your stand on this. Gun owners are “organized” and are primed to speak out on all issues which concern guns.

  31. Will
    I support your stance
    It would be inappropriate with the number of gun violence cases we have to do anything that would potentially increase it. This is a NRA trogen horse and needs to be stopped
    Gene Record

  32. No, no, no! No silencers! This is unsafe for citizens and law enforcement! Legitimate hunters should use ear protection that actually works! It’s another ploy by the gun lobby that makes us all less safe.

  33. Right. Urban and rural citizens have very different relations to guns and noise highlights that difference. If a gun is going off in my neighborhood I want to know as much as possible about whatever is going on, including the direction of the gun being fired
    and how near it is to me. If it was possible to make guns louder that would be even better. Rural people don’t care about these issues. I understand that but on this issue I hope they will cut us some slack.

  34. There is no good reason rouse a silencer. I absolutely object. God forbid someon attempt a mass shooting with a silencer, the carnage would be far worse if no one heard anything!.

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