Politics & Policy

Making Guns Great Again

Guns on display at a store in Ft. Worth, Texas. (Reuters photo: Jessica Rinaldi)
President-elect Trump can and should help repeal a host of burdensome gun-rights restrictions.

A friend of mine treated himself to a new revolver for Hannukah, a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum. He and I took it to the range a few days ago to break it in. For the uninitiated, the S&W .44 Magnum is the gun Dirty Harry describes as the “the most powerful handgun in the world; would blow your head clean off.” It’s unbelievable fun to shoot, and, as you might guess, very, very loud.

We were shooting at an indoor range, in Connecticut, and the noise led to a discussion of pistol silencers. My friend mentioned that in a couple of European countries where silencers are legal, it’s considered rude not to use one when you’re firing around other people. This makes sense; I’ve shot a few silenced guns over the years, and — aurally speaking — they are much, much more pleasant than their un-silenced counterparts.

Thanks to movies — and the name “silencers” — people tend to think that silencers make guns silent. They don’t. What they do is turn something so loud that it damages your ears into something so loud that it merely hurts them. When you shoot a silenced gun, unless it’s a very low-caliber gun or its silencer is unusually large and effective, it’s still prudent to wear hearing protection.

As it turns out, in Connecticut, it’s sort-of impossible to get a pistol silencer. In 1994, congress passed the Assault Weapons Ban. It was an asinine, ineffectual law that banned certain aesthetic features of guns, such as pistol grips, and certain features of convenience, such as adjustable stocks. It had no impact on the lethality of guns; a gun with a pistol grip can’t kill you any deader than a gun without one, or than a car. All the Assault Weapons Ban did was cause a nuisance.

After Congress allowed the law to expire in 2004, Connecticut kept a version of it on its own books, as did many liberal states. Among the things that it makes illegal — it’s been expanded over the years — are threaded barrels, which you need in order attach a silencer to a gun. So while silencers are technically legal, you can’t buy a gun to which a silencer can be attached, unless it is a “pre-ban” gun and hasn’t left Connecticut, in which case it’s grandfathered in: A pistol with a threaded barrel that was legal in Connecticut before the ban is still legal today.

Such guns are highly sought after, and now come with an enormous premium. Calls to a few gun shops and a look at the classifieds turned up only a handful for sale in the whole state, each selling for a 300 or 400 percent markup over the same pistol, post-ban. A new Glock 17, for instance, retails for four or five hundred dollars; a threaded barrel costs another hundred or so. One pre-ban threaded Glock 17 for sale in Connecticut costs $1,600. As of this writing, it appears to be the only one for sale in the state.

An un-silenced Glock 17 will register at just over 160 decibels. According to Purdue University, a jet take-off at 25 yards registers at 150 decibels and will rupture your eardrums. This is why people generally wear hearing protection while they shoot guns. You know when people don’t wear hearing protection while they shoot guns? When someone breaks into their homes and they use their guns in self defense.

The Trumps should also support a congressional overturning of all state laws which throw up arbitrary, nuisance restrictions on gun ownership.

A silencer will bring a Glock 17 down to about 130 decibels, which is slightly louder than a pneumatic riveter but still 10 decibels short of the threshold for permanent hearing damage. If you have a lot of disposable income in Connecticut, you can exercise your right to self-defense and keep your hearing. If you don’t — if you are, for instance, poor and living in a high-crime neighborhood, Connecticut wants you to choose your ears or your life.

How does this not infringe on one’s right to keep and bear arms? It’s disgraceful. Fortunately, there’s someone on the case: Donald Trump Jr.

In late September, Trump Jr. gave an interview to an American silencer company called SilencerCo, in which he — like my friend — pointed out that when he shoots in Europe, the guns he uses are almost invariably silenced. “It’s about safety,” he said. “If you had noise levels in any other industry as you [have] in shooting sports, OSHA would be all over the place; people would be going crazy.” Silencer regulations, he argued, are “arbitrary policies” enacted by “people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”

#related#Trump Jr. suggested that his father will support legislation to ban silencer bans, and everyone who likes being able to hear should be thankful if he does. The Trumps should also support a congressional overturning of all state laws which throw up arbitrary, nuisance restrictions on gun ownership: rules restricting barrel length, stock adjustability, firing rate, magazine capacity — all the stupid mandates of people who’ve never so much as fired a gun, and couldn’t make a rational argument that these restrictions save lives if their own lives depended on it. Then the Trumps should support a repeal of the asinine 1986 federal “Firearm Owners Protection Act” that invented a lot of these stupid ideas in the first place.

Let’s #MakeGunsGreatAgain.

— Josh Gelernter is a weekly columnist for the online Weekly Standard and a frequent contributor to NRO.

Josh Gelernter — Josh Gelernter is a weekly columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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