North

THE ARGUMENT

Should Massachusetts allow guns to be equipped with suppressors, or silencers?

YES

Jim Wallace

Newburyport resident; executive director, Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts

Jim Wallace

Suppressors are the best tool available for hunters and sport shooters to protect their hearing. This innovative technology is available to help prevent auditory problems associated with prolonged exposure to firearm noise, but it is currently illegal to own or possess it in the Commonwealth.

I am the executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, an organization that represents over 15,000 gun owners in our state. We are working with legislators to legalize these modern firearms tools this legislative session and make suppressors available for public sale in Massachusetts.

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For decades, these devices have been available to the general public in 42 states, including Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. These states have not had many issues with suppressors being involved with violent crime. Suppressors are simply not a threat to public safety in any way. Though you might have a different impression of suppressors — or “silencers” — because of Hollywood imagery, modern day suppressors are not the stuff of James Bond and John Wick.

Suppressors help muffle, but not silence, the sound that occurs when a bullet or a shell leaves the chamber and exits a firearm, shotgun, or rifle. The suppressor lowers the decibel level of the shot by 20 to 25 decibels to the equivalent of the sound of a jackhammer hitting concrete. Handguns, rifles, and shotguns with suppressors are still loud and even detectable to the ShotSpotter surveillance system that is operational in many urban areas of Massachusetts.

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While that might not sound like a big difference to you, if you are a hunter, a sport shooter, or even a neighbor to one of the 100+ gun clubs in the state, it makes a dramatic difference to your auditory health and quality of life. Any members of the Massachusetts Legislature, media, or law enforcement are always welcome to attend one of our demonstrations to see how a suppressor functions on a handgun, rifle, and shotgun.

Suppressors are not a threat to our public health. They will provide a much-needed hearing protection option for the over 400,000 gun owners in Massachusetts and help hunter and recreational shooters be better neighbors at gun clubs. I encourage you to learn more about suppressors at www.goal.org.

NO

Brian A. Kyes

Chelsea Police Chief; President, Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police

Chelsea Police Chief Brian A. Kyes

While driving in a cruiser in Chelsea, an officer on routine patrol hears a quick emergency tone on the police radio, immediately followed by the dispatcher stating: “Chelsea Control to ALL Units . . . Chelsea Control to ALL Units: Respond to the area of 500 Main St. for the report of multiple shots fired. Be advised we also have received a Shotspotter activation of eight shots fired in the rear yard of 448 Main St. Use extreme caution.”

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This imagined scenario raises some vital questions: How important is it for police to be alerted immediately when shots are fired within the community? What about those individuals in the area of the gunfire that should be taking immediate cover or quickly running from the scene to avoid getting struck with an intended or even stray bullet? The answers to these questions are obvious: incredibly important.

If gun suppressors were to become legal in this state, the public would be put at significant risk. Not only do police need to respond in a timely manner to investigate gunshots, but innocent bystanders in today’s world of increasing active shooter violence need the ability to take precautionary measures.

There are 12 major cities in Massachusetts that utilize a tool known as Shotspotter. This technology utilizes strategically placed audio sensors that triangulate the sound of gunfire to pinpoint the location of shots fired for responding police officers so that they engage a suspect at a hot scene. Based on my experience, there is no question firearms suppressors will adversely impact the ability of these audible sensors to identify the location of gunfire. Currently, shots are not detected in Shotspotter coverage zones for a variety of reasons. Suppressors would make the detection all but impossible.

On July 18, Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan and I, representing the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association, testified before a legislative committee in opposition to bills that would legalize the use of suppressors. For those who argue that the existing ban should be lifted because of impacts gunfire can have on an individual’s hearing, the answer is simple: Always wear high-quality ear protection.

For the safety of police officers and the public at large, we should keep the existing ban in place.

LAST WEEK’S POLL: Should Lawrence ban the sale of recreational marijuana?

No: 92.16% (141 votes)

Yes: 7.84% (12 votes)

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.
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