Awaiting Congressional Action On Silencers, Utah Manufacturer Grows Skeptical

KUER 90.1 | By Julia Ritchey
Published July 24, 2017 at 7:00 AM MDT
Awaiting Congressional Action on Silencers
Matt Pinnell of SilencerCo demonstrates the difference in noise levels with and without a suppressor.

Matt Pinnell works for SilencerCo, one of the largest manufacturers of suppressors based in West Valley City. He’s conducting a sound test at a nearby shooting range to demonstrate the difference in noise levels with and without a silencer.

“What we’re shooting here now is a BenelliM4, 12-gauge shotgun,” he says, loading the ammo. “And we’re going to shoot it unsuppressed here first and then we’ll do suppressed.”

Pinnell fires a few times then screws on one of their shotgun attachments and proceeds to fire again.

“Unsuppressed, your decibel rating is around 160 or 165,” he says. “You’ll lose hearing, and tend to notice a difference, at around 140 decibels.”

The difference is noticeable, even standing a few feet away.

SilencerCo and other gun-advocacy groups have been quietly hoping for movement this year on legislation that would ease some federal regulations. But little has happened legislatively, despite a more gun-friendly Congress.

“We’re all kind of focused on the Hearing Protection Act, which is to deregulate silencers to a point where they’re treated like a firearm, where you can go in and get an instant background check, or NICs check as people know,” said Joshua Waldron, CEO of SilencerCo.

That bill has languished since it was introduced in February. But a few weeks ago, Utah Sen. Mike Lee introduced the Silencers Helping Us Save Hearing Act — or SHUSH — aimed at stripping all regulations.
Waldron says Lee’s office did not contact him before introducing the SHUSH Act, but isn’t much more optimistic about its chances.

Silencers, silencers and more silencers.
Credit Julia Ritchey / A collection of different suppressors manufactured by SilencerCo in West Valley City, UT.

“I don’t think that legislation has a chance in hell to pass,” he says. “It just doesn’t. We have to get 60 in the Senate, which means we have to have something the other side can agree to.”

Critics of the legislation and of suppressors have argued that guns should be loud as a matter of public safety.

Waldron says he has a trip planned to Washington soon to meet with more members of Congress and will keep pushing for their legislation.

Julia Ritchey

Julia Ritchey

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.

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