RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -- Virginia lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Tuesday with one item on their agenda: Guns.
Governor Ralph Northam was pushing for a wide range of gun control measures after the Virginia Beach tragedy, including universal background checks and a ban on gun suppressors or silencers. The shooter in the Virginia Beach mass shooting used a .45 caliber handgun with a legally-purchased suppressor.
Gun rights advocates called Tuesday’s session "political grandstanding" and said none of Northam’s proposals would make anyone safer.
The National Rifle Association hosted an information session on suppressors on Monday at a Richmond gun range to explain what suppressors are and how they work.
Suppressors attach to the end of a gun’s barrel, helping muffle the noise of gunfire.
Some gun control supporters fear that a suppressor may help an active shooter conceal his gunfire, making him harder to track down and allowing for more victims to be harmed. Gun rights advocates say that realistically, a suppressor on any firearm is still very loud, louder than a jackhammer.
"There really are a lot of misconceptions about suppressors. These really are one of the most misunderstood tools in existence,” said Knox Williams, president of the American Suppressor Association.
Williams demonstrated several guns with and without suppressors, including a .45 caliber handgun, a .22 pistol and an AR-15 rifle.
He says a suppressor lowers the sound of gunfire just enough so that it doesn’t cause hearing damage, from an average of 165 decibels to between 130 and 140 decibels.
"It's just something that's going to reduce a dangerously loud sound level to a less dangerously loud sound level,” said Williams.
Williams says suppressors are often used by hunters or those at a gun range to prevent long-term hearing damage. He also said that the kind of “silenced” gunshot often depicted in movies or on television shows is completely “Hollywood.”
"It's absolutely 100 percent fabricated in sound effects lab and does not in any way, shape or form mirror reality," he said.
“When we enforce the laws on the books, that reduces crime,” said NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen. “Instead, what the governor is trying to do is pass laws that will make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to protect and defend themselves.”
Across the city, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney hosted a community talk on supporting tougher gun laws on Monday afternoon.
Sheila Green-Hall lost her 33-year-old son Omar Green to gun violence in Richmond this past summer.
“Everybody is worrying about their rights, but don’t take away our rights either to be able to live in America and not worry about getting your head blown off, or like my son, not worrying about getting shot in the back,” said Green-Hall.
Currently, to purchase a gun suppressor in Virginia, you have to undergo another FBI background check, including fingerprints and photos, pay a $200 fee and wait about a year to get approved.
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