Democrats on Capitol Hill have introduced bicameral legislation that takes aim at the more than 2 million already highly regulated firearm suppressors in circulation. 

The proposal, dubbed the "Help Empower Americans to Respond," or HEAR, Act, was introduced last month by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, both New Jersey Democrats. The move would ban the importation, sale, manufacturing, transfer, and possession of suppressors with narrow exceptions for the devices' continued use by law enforcement or the military. 

An assortment of national anti-gun groups, including the Violence Policy Center, Newtown Action Alliance, March For Our Lives, and Everytown, support the measure. 

In an over-the-top joint statement issued by Menendez and Coleman, the lawmakers sidestep over 120 years of suppressor history to characterize their use and purpose as being something akin to Sarin nerve gas – all while incorrectly terming the sound moderators as "silencers," even though they do not make a firearm silent. 

"Gun silencers are devices designed for a very specific purpose – to suppress the sound of gunfire from unsuspecting victims and reduce the chances they can run, hide, take cover, and call the police during an active shooter situation," said Menendez, while Coleman unabashedly declared, "Silencers are not tools of self-defense, they are tools of murder. They have no legal application, which is why law enforcement officials around the country have called for their elimination."

Even when modern suppressors are fitted, firearms are loud – typically anywhere between 110 dB to 140 dB, depending on caliber. For reference, this is all louder than the sound level of a jackhammer striking concrete.

Adam Mehlenbacher, an Army veteran and audiologist who heads up the American Academy of Audiology’s Government Relations Committee, previously told that hearing loss and tinnitus, often from unmuffled firearms, are the most common military service-related disabilities and “can have an enormous negative impact on communication ability and quality of life."

According to the latest statistics available, no less than 2,664,774 suppressors were registered in compliance with the National Firearms Act as of May 2021. Prior to 1934, the devices – which had been around since the early 1900s and had been somewhat inaccurately marketed as "Silencers" – had no regulation. They are currently legal for consumer ownership in all but seven states and allowed for use by sportsmen for hunting in no less than 41 states. 

Further, federal gun regulators have gone on record saying the devices are not a threat to the public. 

In 2016, Ronald B. Turk, the ATF’s associate deputy director and chief operating officer, noted that "Silencers are very rarely used in criminal shootings,” going on to argue in favor of their deregulation, saying, "Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety.”

"The press release issued by Sen. Menendez is chocked full of inaccuracies, highlighting the intellectual dishonesty of politicians and anti-gunners we’ve come to expect when it comes to the topic of suppressors," noted the American Suppressor Association. 

The HEAR Act, which would go into effect 90 days after being signed into law by the President, would authorize mandatory "buybacks" of any once-legal suppressors using public funds via the Department of Justice.

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