WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJHL) – United States Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Democrat colleagues introduced legislation to ban gun suppressors at the national level as an effort to improve law enforcement responses to mass shootings.

The “Help Empower Americans to Respond” or HEAR Act would ban the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer and possession of silencers/suppressors, devices designed to limit the sound and flash that follows a gunshot.

Tracking and locating the sound of gunfire is a large part of shooting responses by law enforcement, Kaine said, and the use of suppressors can reportedly impact the ability of police and detection systems to find a shooter.

Kaine cited the use of a silencer in a 2019 Virginia Beach mass shooting that left a dozen people dead as a large part of the bill’s inspiration.

“Law enforcement nearby, some heard the noise but they thought it was a nail gun or something like that because the silencer suppressed the noise,” Kaine said in a Wednesday call with members of the press. “So the shooting was not discovered until pretty far into it.

“Lives could have been saved had that silencer not been used.”

Language in the bill carves out exceptions for law enforcement officers, federal personnel and others working on behalf of governments. You can find the full text of the bill below:

Suppressors, silencers and other firearm sound devices are not banned at the federal level, but they do require a National Firearms Act tax stamp and registration to own. According to totals published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, over 900,000 silencers were registered throughout the country in 2016.

The bill was filed by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) alongside several Democrat co-sponsors:

  • Blumenthal
  • Booker
  • Feinstein
  • Hirono
  • Kaine
  • Markey
  • Padilla
  • Whitehouse

The bill also authorizes the use of buyback programs for silencer owners to hand over their devices before the law takes full effect.