Legalization of gun suppressors hits bulls-eye in Iowa House

But bill unlikely to get consideration in Iowa Senate

A bill to protect Iowans’ liberties and their hearing sailed through the Iowa House Thursday on an 83-16 vote, but is likely to get sunk in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

House File 2381 would allow Iowans to buy suppressors, or silencers, for their guns. That’s prohibited now by state law, according to floor manager Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, who called the bill a “prime opportunity to expand the freedom and liberty Iowans deserve.”

Protecting their hearing from what one gun rights lobbyist called the “danger of instant and irreparable hearing damage” would be a “completely legit argument,” Windschitl added.

However, shooters could wear earplugs or headphones to protect their ears, Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said. Silencers would muffle the noise of gunfire and “provide a new degree of intimacy for a mass murderer.” The same protection suppressors provide target shooters would work to the “advantage of the armed psychopath,” she said.

Windschitl argued he could find no empirical evidence that there has been an increase in crime in the 39 states that already allow the purchase and use of suppressors.

“We shouldn’t restrict freedom based on ‘what if,’” he said.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, opposed the bill based on her litmus test for firearms legislation: “Will it create a safer environment in our schools, theaters, malls and general public?”

In the end, the bill received broad bipartisan support. The 16 “no” votes came from urban Democrats, including some Cedar Rapids representatives where noise from a gun range has been an issue.

A bill to would protect the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s outdoor shooting range from noise complaints from neighbors sailed through the Iowa House 98-1 in 2013.

Referring to that range, which was in a rural area, but now sits amid development, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said it’s his guess neighbors of the range would appreciate if shooters use suppressors.

However, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, doubts he can get a consensus on the bill and said the Senate is too busy to consider new legislation in the middle of a session.

“We’ll take a look at that, but it is my plan not to take up any firearms legislation this year,” he said after the House approved the bill. “I see nothing urgent about this.

Opponents also noted that the ban on suppressors was one of the first 10 bills Gov. Terry Branstad signed after becoming governor in 1983.

Paulsen said he hopes Hogg gives the bill the consideration an 83-16 vote deserves.

“Well, I think -- 83 votes -- it’s a priority of the House of Representatives. That’s a really big vote count,” he said.