Debate continues over whether gun silencers should be easier to buy

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following the return of Congressman Steve Scalise to the Capitol, the debate continues over whether it should be easier for people to be able to purchase gun silencers.

A Virginia Tech shooting survivor wrote an Op-Ed in USA Today following Scalise’s return, saying if it weren’t for the sound of gunshots that day he wouldn’t be alive, and some Congressmen like Scalise may not be either.

Two Republican congressmen have introduced legislation to make gun silencers easier to buy. It’s called “The Hearing Protection Act.” The goal is to lift parts of the “National Firearms Act of 1934,” requiring rigorous background checks in order to purchase a suppressor. The waiting period can last more than nine months. Supporters say this is protecting hunters and sportsman from damaging their hearing.

“Neither of those bills has anything to do at all with hearing, protection or otherwise,” said Andy Goddard, father of a Virginia Tech shooting survivor.

Goddard says it was the sound of gunshots at Tech that allowed students to protect themselves.

“They did have time to barricade the door because they knew that it was gunfire,” said Goddard.

He says efforts to make silencers easier to purchase are merely efforts to drive more gun sales, saying it could lead to a disaster.

“There will be more, possibly more, people killed in mass shootings,” said Goddard.

Others disagree and say that making suppressors more available will help protect hunters’ hearing.

“Movies and television have shown suppressors in a light that’s basically not accurate at all,” said Philip Van Cleave with the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

Supporters like Van Cleave applaud the bills.

“There’s really no reason it should have been taken away from us and made so difficult to get one of these,” said Van Cleave.

Van Cleave says guns with silencers still make a noticeable sound. He says earplugs don’t allow shooters to be aware of their surroundings and without plugs, hearing damage will happen.

“If you’re hunting, when you fire that gun, it can damage your hearing, especially if you fire it multiple times,” said Van Cleave.

Similar measures have failed in the past, but with a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, the bills may stand a better chance than ever before.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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