Illinois Lawmakers Weigh Legalizing Gun Silencers

The National Rifle Association is taking aim at an Illinois gun law banning the sale and use of gun silencers or suppressors. They are cylindrical objects that are screwed onto the gun barrel to bring down the decibel level.

Legislation in Springfield to make silencers legal is getting bipartisan support, but gun control advocates warn that legalizing them will make the already dangerous streets of Chicago worse. 

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Click here to see how your state representative voted on the bill to legalize gun silencers. 


Todd VandermydeTodd Vandermyde Todd Vandermyde, Illinois NRA lobbyist: So you notice, you get the boom from the gun, but the crack down there – that’s the supersonic – it’s the bullet breaking the sound barrier.

Paris Schutz: Shooting a gun is a dangerous activity, but there's an additional health risk to the firearms owner. Illinois NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde says just a few rounds can cause permanent hearing loss. He says legislation to legalize the sale and ownership of gun silencers will mitigate that.

Vandermyde: When I'm hunting, I don't want to wear headphones. I like to hear the game that's coming around. It’s about hearing protection. It’s about saving a hunter's hearing.

Schutz: Vandermyde demonstrates the suppressors on an array of pistols and rifles at a shooting range outside of Aurora. He says he wants to clear up some misperceptions about what they can and can't do.

Schutz to Vandermyde: I snuck my headphones off, it's still pretty loud.

Vandermyde: It is. It still makes it loud. It doesn't make a gun noiseless or silent. It simply acts as a muffler and reduces the noise.

Schutz : Illinois is currently one of only eight states to ban suppressors and the only state in the Midwest to do so.

Colleen Daley of the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence says legalizing silencers in Illinois could make Chicago's gun crime problem even worse.

Colleen DaleyColleen Daley Colleen Daley, Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence executive director: When you think about things like mass shootings, seconds matter. They really do and if you can't hear something down the hall because it’s not as loud or doesn't sound like gunfire, it raises grave concerns for us.

Schutz: It's also a concern to Chicago Police brass, as the department rolls out million dollar sound detecting technology across crime ridden areas of the city. ShotSpotter boxes atop lamp polls detect the sound of gunshots and display the information in real time at police command centers.

Eddie Johnson, Chicago Police superintendent: Could silence those weapons just like military grade weapons. We don’t need them in the streets of Chicago.

Schutz: The company that manufactures ShotSpotter says it has not yet formally tested whether or not it’s technology can detect the sound of a gun with a suppressor. Vandermyde says tough restrictions in the proposed legislation should keep suppressors out of the hands of criminals.

Vandermyde: You have to pay a $200 tax, you have to do two sets of fingerprints, two passport photos. You have to send all that into ATF. And before you can even take this home from the gun store, you have to wait for their approval, which is running six to eight months right now.

Schutz: He also says the cost of the suppressor is prohibitive, running anywhere from $800 to well over $1,000. But that could come down as suppressors become more widely available.

Daley: They say you silencers cost $800, but you can get them really for $200, and simple supply and demand: The second you roll back restrictions on it, they're going to make them a lot cheaper, they’re going to get a lot smaller, and their technology's going to get a lot better.

Schutz: The bill passed last year in the Democratic-controlled Illinois House with 69 votes, but it died at the end of session last year. A new bill is currently sitting in a senate committee awaiting hearing.

The legislation got surprising support from some Chicago area Democrats, including House Speaker Michael Madigan.  But gun control advocates hope lawmakers hear their concerns and weigh them against the hearing concerns of firearms owners. 

Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

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