West

THE ARGUMENT

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

YES

Jim Finnerty

Groton resident, board president of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts

Jim Finnerty

I’m an instructor who teaches the safety classes required by the state for firearms license applicants. In spite of the fact that I always wear hearing protection, I have permanent hearing loss caused by exposure to the sound of gunfire during these classes. My ears are always ringing, and I have a hard time picking up normal conversation through any background noise. My doctor tells me it’s irreversible and will get worse as I get older. I am not alone. Every instructor or competitive shooter I know that has been at it as long as I have has the same problem.

I’m also a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, and this year obtained the many state and federal permits required to buy, sell, and build suppressors in Massachusetts.

I recently acquired my first suppressor. My only prior “experience” with them came from movies and television. Therefore, I was expecting to be able snap a tiny device onto my firearm that would reduce a deafening roar to a barely audible click. As it turns out, I was quite disappointed — at first.

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Right from the box, the unit was larger than I had imagined. It doubled the length of my handgun. My disappointment worsened at the audio range. My pistol was still loud! Instead of a Bond-like “pffft,” there was still a distinct BANG!

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Before long, though, I appreciated that the suppressor reduced the dangerous concussive noise so that my ears were not hurting, even after prolonged testing sessions. Another benefit I found was the lack of noise complaints from the range’s abutters.

As beneficial as these devices are, state law prevents their use by anyone except manufacturers and law enforcement officers. I can’t use suppressors in my classes because it’s illegal for my students to even handle them. I would not have the hearing loss I have today had I been able to use suppressors throughout my time as a firearms instructor.

I am hoping legislators remedy this problem by passing pending legislation to lift the ban. Where suppressors are legal, hunting is safer, neighbors are happier, shot-spotters still function, and shooters have fewer health problems. They’re a good idea for everyone.

NO

Frederick Ryan

Arlington Chief of Police

Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan

For over 90 years the state silencer ban, originally supported by local law enforcement, has protected Massachusetts residents. However, this year two state legislative committees will both hear bills that would repeal the 92-year-old law.

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The four bills are the gun lobby’s latest attempt to put profits over public safety. Unfortunately, these bills are part of a national effort to deregulate silencers, or suppressors, and make them more accessible for use in criminal activity.

Today, I stand with municipal police chiefs across the Commonwealth who oppose these attempts to repeal the ban. If repealed, our officers will be at greater risk when they respond to active shooter calls because the use of silencers will make it more difficult to identify where a shooter is. Additionally, technology called “ShotSpotter,” which helps identify where gun shots are coming from and is used by my department and many others, will likely be compromised when it comes to picking up the sound of shots fired with a silencer.

Simply put, these deadly accessories to lethal firearms will make it easier for criminals to get away with murder undetected.

But it gets worse.

Federal silencer regulation, which requires fingerprints of the purchaser, thorough background checks, and a national registry of silencer owners, is also under attack. While the current regulations have kept silencers from being used frequently in crimes, there is federal legislation pending that would deregulate silencers by treating them like other firearm accessories and requiring a much more limited background check to purchase. The likelihood of the federal legislation passing makes stopping the Massachusetts bills a high priority for concerned citizens and law enforcement alike.

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In hearings last month, the gun manufacturer lobbyist argued that these bills would protect the hearing of hunters and shooters. The notion that a silencer would do a better job protecting hearing than the high-tech ear protection now available is ridiculous.

This bill has nothing to do with hearing protection and everything to do with the uniquely unregulated gun industry, that is exempt from lawsuits, profiting from their dangerous products and helping criminals get away undetected.

Last week’s argument: Should Massachusetts require police to obtain search warrants to use drones for investigations?

Yes: 54.55% (6 votes)

No: 45.45% (5 votes)

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