Silencer Night, Holey Night: “Think of the children”


Because at this special time of year every all-American kid dreams of being an assassin.

Semiauto handgun? Check. Bushmaster? Check. (Picked it up at Walmart’s everyday low prices.) High-capacity magazines? Check. Silencers? Doh!!

Not to worry, though. The NRA — yes, Wayne LaPierre’s NRA — is hoping to get silencers deregulated as wholesome, kid-friendly, essential firearm accessories. As seen in Newtown! Salon reports:

In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes, the gun lobby’s grand strategy rests grotesquely on fake concern for child hearing health. Among the opening shots in the campaign was a feature in the February 2011 issue of Gun World, “Silence is Golden,” penned by the veteran gun writer Jim Dickson. “One only has to look at children in the rest of the world learning to shoot with silencers, protecting their tender young ears, to see what an innocent safety device we are talking about here,” writes Dickson. “To use an overworked propaganda phrase, legalize silencers ‘for the sake of the children.’” [Emphasis Salon’s]

The shock factor has about worn off. The biggest surprise in LaPierre’s recent bizarre press conference was his recommendation that American school teachers recently described as union thugs be armed in the classroom. What we see is a depraved gun culture, with manufacturers as possessed by greed as buyers are by fear of “the other” and insecurity about “over-feminization.” Writes Paul Rosenberg, the orientation towards violence “is only becoming more lethal as traditional male power becomes increasingly ineffectual in a rapidly-changing world.” Gun buyers who worry about being preyed upon are easy pickings for manufacturers eager to prey on those fears and market weapons to them from the time they are old enough to play video games.

The New York Times reports that video game manufacturers “seek out explicit authorizations or licenses from product manufacturers” to include their products in games. The promotional Web site for partners of Medal of Honor Warfighter included links to gun manufacturers’ sites until a gamer wrote about it and Electronic Arts took them down. In the past Electronic Arts advertised its partnership with Magpul gun accessories in a YouTube video.

Salon’s Alexander Zaitchik writes,

It should surprise no one that the NRA has recently thrown its weight behind an industry campaign to deregulate and promote the use of silencers. Under the trade banner of the American Silencer Association, manufacturers have come together with the support of the NRA to rebrand the silencer as a safety device belonging in every all-American gun closet. To nurture this potentially large and untapped market, the ASA last April sponsored the first annual all-silencer gun shoot and trade show in Dallas. America’s silencer makers are each doing their part. SWR Suppressors is asking survivalists to send a picture of their “bugout bag” for a chance to win an assault rifle silencer. The firm Silencero — “We Dig Suppressors and What They Do” — has put together a helpful “Silencers Are Legal” website and produced a series of would-be viral videos featuring this asshole. [Ed. note: It’s Silencerco.]

Really, a little over minute of the faux Australian in that Silencerco YouTube infomercial is all it will take to see there is no bottom to the pit of greed and the compulsion to acquire more and deadlier personal weapons. All justified, of course, by American values and traditions. All except those the NRA has managed to air brush out of our cultural history.

Writing in the New Yorker, Jill Lepore backfills some of that forgotten history:

In the two centuries following the adoption of the Bill of Rights, in 1791, no amendment received less attention in the courts than the Second, except the Third. As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

And check them they did. In Dodge City. In Abilene and Amarillo. In Wichita and Deadwood. In Tombstone, where the famous 1881 OK Corral gunfight broke out when Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday tried to enforce the town’s gun ordinance. Back in the day, saloon keepers posted signs that read, “ALL FIREARMS ARE EXPECTED TO BE DEPOSITED WITH THE PROPRIETOR.”

Not today. Today’s gun-lobby NRA advocates for laws permitting carrying firearms into bars in spite of what NRA members think. That is because, says Lepore, in the 1970s the NRA began to promote the notion that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to carry a gun, not just in a militia organized for the common defense. They funded a flood of scholarship to support that interpretation:

According to the constitutional-law scholar Carl Bogus, at least sixteen of the twenty-seven law-review articles published between 1970 and 1989 that were favorable to the N.R.A.’s interpretation of the Second Amendment were “written by lawyers who had been directly employed by or represented the N.R.A. or other gun-rights organizations.” In an interview, former Chief Justice Warren Burger said that the new interpretation of the Second Amendment was “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”


Between 1968 and 2012, the idea that owning and carrying a gun is both a fundamental American freedom and an act of citizenship gained wide acceptance and, along with it, the principle that this right is absolute and cannot be compromised…”

And as traditional as 1968, no less. The NRA’s freedom ride has now been codified by the Roberts court in Heller, whether or not most Americans and even NRA members agree. After the Newtown school shootings, exasperated gun-owner Shannyn Moore wrote for the Anchorage Daily News:

So the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of kindergarteners, mall shoppers and moviegoers? Is that freedom?

I’m not advocating for no guns. I like mine and am not about to give them up. But in this country, my uterus is more regulated than my guns. Birth control and reproductive health services are harder to get than bullets. What is that about? Guns don’t kill people — vaginas do?

So here’s where we stand, in an America wilder than the Wild West. Stand your ground. Guns in bars. Arming teachers with guns. AR-15s. AK-47s. One hundred-round drum magazines. Now silencers. All supported, says Moore, by an NRA that “operates as a lobby for gun manufacturers rather than for responsible gun owners,” and by a stand-your-ground gun culture that never saw a weapon it didn’t like, and whose knee-jerk answer to every shooting (and election loss) is more guns. Or else to “man up” and encourage people (including teachers and children?) to gang rush shooters, as Megan McArdle suggests. Corey Robin points out the raving incoherence in that statement, “When it comes to public goods, libertarians think we’re all free riders; in the face of crazed killers, we’re all comrades.”

Salon’s Zaitchik wraps up his excursion into silencers “for the children” culture:

If the current campaign succeeds in delisting silencers from NFA regulation, the gun lobby likely won’t wait long before targeting the remaining regulatory regimes limiting the circulation of fully automatic machine guns and even hand grenades. Do not be surprised when you see a 2014 Gun World feature extolling freshwater blast fishing as a great way to connect kids and nature, while reducing the risks of fishing with sharp steel hooks, some of which have dangerous double jags.

On the Internet, another generation of bikini-clad gun babes will beckon with grenade pins between their teeth, “Hey junior, have you earned your man card yet?


  1. Tom Sullivan says:
  2. Davyne Dial says:

    It is past time to limit the power of the NRA. We deserve accurate research on the extent of gun injuries and deaths. And then use that information to require liability insurance on the firearms causing the injury and deaths. Then also tax all ammo, gunpowder and casings(like cigarettes are now taxed to help defray the damage to themselves and others that smokers inflict).