WASHINGTON — Arguments that easing regulations for gun silencers would make it harder to find mass shooters is an emotional overreaction that doesn’t make sense, Rep. Kevin Cramer said.
After a shooting Sunday night in Las Vegas left 58 dead and hundreds injured, House leadership announced it had no plans to schedule a vote on the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreation Enhancement Act, a package of legislation geared toward hunters’ rights. The bill’s language would make it easier to purchase silencers, called suppressors by the industry and gun experts.
Potential buyers would need a background check to buy a suppressor instead of spending $200 to obtain a special license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which usually takes several months to receive.
There was speculation the House could vote on the Share Act this week, but the Las Vegas shootings likely delayed the bill, said Cramer, R-N.D. The bill had been set to hit the floor this month but he wasn’t sure about the exact timeline.
“Whether or not the events of Las Vegas would impact how a vote would turn out in terms of passage, I don’t know,” he said.
Bill language about suppressors refer to them as silencers, and the Share Act would have wide support without that language, Cramer said.
Opponents of the bill, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, have criticized the language, saying it would be harder to find a shooter who has a silencer and that hunters don’t need suppressors.
Cramer understood the politics behind the bill in relation to Las Vegas, but the bill is about Second Amendment rights and hearing protection, he said. Silencers can be used to help reduce noise to protect hearing, especially at shooting ranges.
The argument that making it harder for people to buy a silencer will deter a shooter who wants to kill a large number of people doesn’t make sense, he said.
“It would be like making cars illegal when some people can use a car to commit a crime,” he said, adding it’s not appropriate to stifle the rights of millions to catch a few perpetrators.
Cramer said he’s open to discussions but feels it is important to step back out of respect for the victims. He was not surprised by opponents’ remarks but said they were “an overreaction that seems proper at the time.”
“If we wait another week or a month or six months to pass the (Share Act), I don’t think there is going to be a lot of harm done,” he said.
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., did not return messages seeking comment for this story.