Congressman hopes to ease silencer restrictions

Gun silencer sales have exploded recently, and a new initiative led by an Arizona Congressman would make them easier to obtain. Supporters of silencers and the legislation say the devices help protect the hearing of hunters, but not everyone is buying that argument.

They have a reputation being glorified in gangster films and have been under strict regulations since the organized crime era of the 1930's. Silencers or suppressors as they are called are selling like never before.

Out of his home in the east valley Bruce Stevens "Mr. Silencer" sells all kinds of silencers. He's a licensed gun dealer and does most of his business online.

"I think that in every man's mind I think there is still the James Bond mindset, but it is actually very very safe, it makes guns more accurate," said Bruce Stevens.

Stevens sometimes takes his customers shooting in the desert, showing them the difference between shooting without and with a suppressor.

You can hear it; the difference is obvious. Having the suppressor on reduces the sound by at least ten fold.

"Without the suppressor even with the ear muffs on you can feel that in your face, you can feel the shockwave, you can feel your hair move," said Bruce Stevens.

Stevens guides customers through the complicated process of buying suppressors. To get one a customer has to be fingerprinted, and the local Sheriff has to sign off on it. That registered owner is the only one legally who can use the silencer, or you can buy it in a trust, a process that takes months.

"Buying with a trust gives someone not only legal protection, but it allows them to use it as a family, or a group of friends and share them legally," said Stevens.

The feds are changing the rules later this year. They require more information about everyone involved in a trust, and now the sales are skyrocketing.

"At that point a firestorm happened the floodgates opened up. Every suppressor in every store in the country disappeared within a month. It is no fun to wait anyway for 5 or 6 months and now to have your family down and have them fingerprinted and subject them all to a background check, that just makes it more difficult to a process that is already kind of silly," said Stevens.

"I just don't think it is very good policy today," said Congressman Matt Salmon.

Salmon is working to change how silencers are sold. He's sponsoring a bill in Congress known as the hearing protections act.

"I have been shooting with suppressors for a while, and I do so because I have lost a lot of my hearing over the years," said Salmon.

Salmon's bill which he says has bipartisan support, would allow someone to buy a silencer using the current checks when you buy a new gun.

"You'd have to buy them through a gun dealer, and you have to go through the same background check that people who buy guns from gun dealers go through. Suppressors are used for training purposes. I can't see someone buying one to go on a crime spree. It doesn't make a lot of sense," said Salmon.

Salmon points out very few gun crimes involve a silencer. Opponents say that's because they are so tightly regulated.

"Loosening that regulation will put them out on the secondary market, and make them far more available, and does not have such a good intent with their firearms," said Gerry Hill.

Hill founded Arizonans for Gun Safety and believes efforts to loosen regulations are simply profits over public safety.

"We have been blowing lead balls through the air with gun powder for over 500 years now. Now all of a sudden the gunfire has become this major health issue that we need to address? This is a solution looking for a problem," said Hill.

But Salmon says the silencers have gotten a bad rap.

"I just think that at the time they were kind of misunderstood. In fact, many countries today require when you hunt that you use suppressors to mitigate the noise issue," said Salmon.

Salmon's legislation has ways to go before it has any chance of becoming law. In the meantime, Steven's business has no signs of slowing down.