Suppressors Are Not Silent
Politicians in the United States love to engage in knee-jerk reactions to current events to grab headlines, attention, and fool a few gullible voters into supporting them during the next election cycle. When that knee-jerk reaction is tied to a hot-button topic, like gun control, mixed with a presidential election in less than a year and a half away, and you have a recipe for turning massively dumb ideas into political reality.
The lasted knee-jerk reaction is coming via the recent Virginia Beach mass shooting. A disgruntled municipal worker with reported workplace violence issues reportedly submitted his two-week notice to quit his job. That same day, he showed up at the workplace and killed 12 co-workers before dying in a gun battle with police.
New reports indicate the shooter used two .45-caliber handguns with high-capacity magazines. One of the pistols reportedly was equipped with a suppressor, which has the anti-gun crowd in a tizzy.
After all, television programs and the movies make the uninformed believe a suppressor reduces the volume to about the level of shooting a spit-wad out of a plastic straw. The reality, though, is quite different.
The first notion to dispel is that of a “silencer.” A suppressor does not “silence” a firearm. Those sounds you hear when people fire “silenced” firearms in movies and TV programs are fake and in no way reflect reality.
The simple fact is, even a suppressed firearm makes enough noise to drown out most any other loud noise. A suppressed firearm also can cause hearing damage and pain.
The suppressor has an interesting history in the United States. Hiram Percy Maxim, an MIT graduate and son of the inventor of the legendary Maxim machine gun, patented and produced the world’s first suppressor in 1902, and named it the “Maxim Silencer.”
The suppressor reduces noise to more hearing-safe levels, while also reducing felt recoil and muzzle flash. It greatly aids in the teaching and training of proficient firearms use, while reducing noise pollution.
The idea was to sell it to hunters and target shooters to reduce the sound levels by up to 40 decibels. That reduces the amount of noise pollution produced while target shooting or hunting, and reduces the potential for hearing damage. Most suppressed firearms, though, produce sound levels greatly exceeding safe levels. All of them make far more noise than indicated in movies and TV shows.
A suppressor makes it possible for shooting instructors to better communicate with students, shooting ranges to remain neighborhood-friendly by reducing noise. A suppressor never makes it possible for an assailant to hide his or her location while targeting a victim, as depicted in films. About the most someone might hope for is to help conceal his or her position. That would be more of a military application in the field. It would not work in an enclosed environment where loud noises are readily detected and amplified by hard surfaces.
A simple comparison of the decibel levels of various suppressed and unsuppressed firearms shows most suppressed firearms produce noise volumes exceeding 110 decibels and reaching 140 decibels. That is about equal to The Who playing a rock concert in a small room in a municipal building. No one would agree that would be a “silent” event.
The Beatles once played an unannounced outdoor gig on a rooftop in London. It instantly drew large crowds from around the street. Safe to say, there was nothing silent about it. And there is nothing silent about a suppressed firearm.
Yet, because a criminal chose to use a firearm with a suppressor attached in a very high-profile mass shooting, knee-jerk politicians and those who support them want suppressors banned. Even President Donald Trump indicated potential support for banning them, just as he recently supported a ban on bump stocks.
Trump since has walked back his initial comments, saying he might not support a ban on suppressors. Neither suppressors nor bump stocks are firearms, so they do not benefit from Second Amendment protections.
The usual anti-gun crowd, though, is targeting suppressors and high-capacity magazines as their latest panacea to address yet another mass shooting in a so-called gun-free zone.
They also are pushing universal background checks and red flag laws – yet more ways to restrict access to firearms. Like most knee-jerk political reactions, bad policy is the likeliest outcome.