Gun silencer bill advances, moves to House floor

A bill containing a controversial provision that would make obtaining gun silencers easier passed its first hurdle Wednesday, advancing to the House floor.

An initial hearing on the bill was first planned in June but postponed following the shooting of Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the Republican House whip June 14.

The House Committee on Natural Resources passed the “Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act,” or SHARE Act, a bipartisan bill that aims to “expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting” and “increases safety and hearing protection for sportsmen and women,” the committee wrote in a statement.

Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina was responsible for adding the specific provision on gun silencers and argued that silencers protect hunters from hearing loss.

“Sportsmen are the foundation of the conservation movement in the United States, yet some radical organizations seek to limit access to this pastime by restricting the Second Amendment, as well as land and game management,” Duncan said in a statement following the vote. “It’s time to reform how we treat these lands in Congress. Let’s responsibly expand access for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. Let’s teach the next generation the basics of safe firearm usage and the virtues of cherishing our hunting traditions.”

The 1934 National Firearms Act classifies silencers similar to explosives or machine guns. Currently buyers have to submit a photo, their fingerprints and pay a $200 transfer tax in order to purchase a silencer for their rifles. The bill would eliminate those requirements.

Gun control activists have criticized the bill, noting that it is supported by the National Rifle Association.

“The gun silencers provision of the SHARE Act would make it easier for felons, domestic abusers and people with dangerous mental illnesses to buy gun silencers,” Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, wrote on its website. “This bill puts the profits of gun manufacturers ahead of public safety.”

The bill’s future is unclear, as it will likely face strong opposition from Democrats in the Senate.