The next gun-rights fight on Beacon Hill is taking shape around a specific accessory: the silencer.
Massachusetts is one of eight states where silencers — or suppressors, as they’re known in the industry — are banned for civilian use. But for how much longer? The Legislature’s public safety and homeland security committee is scheduled to discuss bills that would end the ban on Thursday.
A committee endorsement seems likely because Senator Michael Moore, the Millbury Democrat who heads the committee, is pushing to drop the ban. He has heard from hunters and target shooters in his district who want to use silencers. This is the first time he is sponsoring the bill, although a similar version made it out of committee in the previous legislative session.
There are several manufacturers in Massachusetts — including Smith & Wesson parent American Outdoor Brands — who could benefit. American Suppressor Association president Knox Williams expects to testify. Suppressors, he says, don’t remove the noise of gunshots, they just reduce the sound. And earmuffs and earplugs often aren’t enough, he says, to adequately protect a gun user’s hearing.
But gun-control advocates remain skeptical. They’ll speak against the bills Thursday, arguing the legislation could simply make it easier for wrongdoers to get away with murder.
Developer John Rosenthal, best known for his anti-gun-violence billboard over the Mass. Pike, plans to join the critics at the State House. He’s frustrated by the lack of movement in Washington to curb assault weapons, while mass shootings continue around the country. But he’s also proud that Massachusetts is among several states that continue to ban such assault weapons and hopes legislative leaders keep the parallel restriction on silencers intact.