VPC Study Reveals Public Safety Threat Posed by Firearm Silencers

For Release: Monday, July 8, 2019

Report Released Prior to Special Session of Virginia General Assembly Called in Wake of Virginia Beach Mass Shooting

Washington, D.C. – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released an updated edition of its study Silencers: A Threat to Public Safety as the Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to begin a special session tomorrow on gun violence prevention legislation. The special session was called in the wake of the May mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center, which involved a legally purchased firearm silencer.

When attached to the barrel of a firearm, silencers reduce the amount of noise generated when the weapon is fired. In recent years, the gun industry has aggressively marketed silencers as a new potential profit center.

“Silencers are military-bred accessories that make it easier for criminals to take innocent lives and threaten law enforcement,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “Manufacturers brag that silencers can make guns ‘whisper quiet’ while increasing shooters’ accuracy and ability to fire rounds more quickly. These characteristics only make silencers more attractive to mass shooters—as we saw in Virginia Beach—as well as to terrorists and common criminals. Silencers should be banned for civilian use to protect public safety.”

Survivors of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center attack stated that the shooter’s use of a silencer created confusion because of the way it reduced and distorted the sound coming from his pistol when fired.

Silencers: A Threat to Public Safety offers a history of silencers in the United States, documents crimes involving silencers (both legal and illegal), presents examples of catalog copy and images from silencer manufacturers, and details how the gun industry has used silencers to market guns to women and children.

In their materials, silencer manufacturers cite the increased rate of fire shooters can achieve due to reduced recoil and improved stability of the weapon when firing. As the 2019 Advanced Armament catalog states, “Reduced recoil. Enhanced accuracy. The elimination of muzzle-jump and flash that delivers quicker target acquisition for faster follow-up shots.” Or as silencer manufacturer Gemtech Suppressors (owned by the same company as gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson) summarizes: “Suppressors reduce percussion, noise, and recoil. This reduction results in a comfort level where the shooter can better focus on shooting fundamentals and achieve consistent shot placement.”

In its conclusion, the VPC report warns: “A ban on silencers for civilian use would enhance public safety. The explosion in the popularity of silencers has significantly increased the likelihood they will be used in crime. The advantages of using silencers, including reduced noise and increased accuracy, make them attractive to mass shooters, terrorists, and common criminals. In addition, the administrative burden placed on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives diverts resources from the agency’s more important regulatory and law enforcement responsibilities. Conversely, silencers serve no sporting purpose.”

The full report can be found at http://vpc.org/studies/silencers.pdf.



The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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Georgia Seltzer
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