Are Silencers Used For Hunting? Yea, Right.

Now that a bill which removes gun silencers from the list of weapons that are strictly regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 has cleared a House Committee by a party-line vote, both sides in the gun debate are gearing up for what will no doubt be a contentious and loud debate when the bill gets to the House floor.    It should come as no surprise that most of the truth-stretching about silencers is coming from the pro-gun side, because they have a lot more to gain if silencers are dropped from the NFA list.  Anyone can go to Amazon, for example, and purchase a light or a laser which fits on a gun; this would be the case with silencers as well.

silencer             Our friends at The Trace tell us that since 2010, the number of NFA-registered silencers has increased from 285,087 to 902,805, a serious problem if you believe that silencers can somehow be linked to the rate of gun violence which during the same five-year period has not gone down but is actually trending somewhat up. But like everything else in the gun business, using national data to understand how, why and where people own and use anything having to do with guns hides important local and regional differences which need to be explained and understood.

Back in 2010, there were an average of 5,700 silencers registered in each of the 50 states, but seven states (AZ, FL, GA, IN, PA, TX, VA) were the location of 47% of all registered silencers at that time. At the beginning of 2016, the per-state average had increased to 18,056, but these 7 states alone still accounted for nearly 44% of all registered silencers owned. Last year these same seven states issued 3,677,143 hunting licenses, which was 23% of hunting licenses issued by the 50 states. The state which issued the most licenses, Texas, sold 1,132,099, or 7% of the national total. But Texans own 18% of all the registered silencers in the U.S., and the number of silencers in the 7 silencer-rich states represent twice the percentage of all silencers than the percentage of hunting licenses issued by these same states.

Wait a minute. I thought the whole point of owning a silencer was to use it when you go out into the woods to take a crack at Bambi, right?  If that’s the case, how come silencers outpace hunting licenses by a margin of two to one?

What seems to be lost in the silencer debate, and the anti-silencer contingent seems to ignore this issue as well, is that in order to put a silencer on a gun you have to replace the standard barrel with a threaded barrel or the silencer simply won’t work. And while some of the silencer companies have started selling threaded gun barrels in addition to the silencers themselves, unless the gun you want to silence is of modular design, which happens to be only about 10% of all current handgun models along with variations of the AR-15, buying a silencer means buying another gun. This is particularly true when it comes to standard bolt-action or semi-auto hunting rifles because the barrel in most cases is welded to the receiver, so you can’t just pop out one barrel and pop in another the way you might do it with a Glock. When was the last time that someone went hunting deer or high-flyers with a Glock?

The bottom line is that the argument for silencers based on the idea that they are nothing more than a new accessory for hunters is simply not true. And the folks who are trying to prevent the gun industry from turning silencers into a product that is no different from a flashlight should be pointing this out. You can certainly find a story here and there about how a gun with a silencer was involved in this crime or that, but the threat represented by silencers is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the crimes and injuries caused by guns.


Should The ATF Change How It Operates When It May Not Operate Very Well Now?

Our good friends at The Trace have just mounted coverage of the Congressional hearing where an ATF official, Ron Turk, faced blowback from Democrats over a memo he sent around questioning the necessity to maintain various gun regulations, such things as keeping silencers on the NFA list, restricting the import of assault-style rifles, prohibiting dealers from one state from selling direct to customers in another state – you know, little things like that.

atf             The word around town is that Turk the Jerk is pimping to become ATF Director, a position vacant since the last Director, Todd Jones, abruptly quit after the agency was buried in an avalanche of pro-gun protests when they tried to restrict the sale of surplus military ammunition which was seen as yet another infringement of 2nd Amendment ‘rights.’  Turk the Jerk claimed that he wrote his memo without input from the NRA, but he admitted during the hearing that, uh, maybe he had ‘heard’ from people in the industry who, uh, told him that they, uh, supported what he said.

My purpose, however, is not to rehash what Turk the Jerk said about his memo; Ann Givens did a good job on that score. What caught my eye was a link to the very critical report of ATF’s oversight of its confidential informant program which, according to the Justice Department’s Inspector General, is managed about as well as the White House is currently managing the behavior of the Commander in Chief.

The audit was conducted to evaluate the practices “for the identification, approval and oversight of confidential informants,” which number more than 1,800 individuals and costs the agency more than $4 million each year. Confidential informants (CI) are a necessary and important tool for law-enforcement investigations, but their use obviously involves risks regarding the validity of the information which they provide, as well as their involvement in illicit activities. The report concluded that “ATF’s oversight of its CI Program required significant improvement,” which is bureaucrat-ese for saying that the program isn’t run very well.  Gee – what a surprise that when it comes to conducting detailed and complicated field investigations, the ATF keeps screwing it up.

This is the same agency which carried out an armed invasion of the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco in 1993 because they believed that members of the sect were manufacturing machine guns that would be used in an Armageddon-type attack on the nearby town. The assault resulted in the deaths of 4 ATF agents and at least 80 men, women and children, even though not a single full-auto weapon was ever found.

Then under the administrations first of George W and then Barack, the ATF went looking for machine guns again and put together an operation called ‘Fast and Furious,’ in which gun dealers were encouraged to sell lots of AK-47s to Mexican gunrunners who, it was believed, were turning the semi-auto rifles into full-auto weapons before they were smuggled over the Rio Grande. This brilliant program resulted in the death of an ATF agent and the disappearance of more than 2,000 weapons before it was curtailed. How many machine guns were recovered? None, as in not one.

The ATF not only botches field investigations, they can’t even bring the technology they use for regulatory activities into the 20th Century, never mind the 21st. Know those 300,000 traces they conduct every year to figure out the initial sale of all those ‘crime’ guns? Forget that most of those traces have nothing to do with serious crimes at all, the ATF still sends trace requests to dealers by fax. Have these guys heard of email and pdf?

If Turk the Jerk really wants to modify regulations to, as he says, ‘free up resources to fight crime,’ why doesn’t he first look at the way in which the ATF operates day-to-day? Before the regulations are changed to make the job easier, perhaps we need to know whether the agency knows how to operate at all.