Editorial: Congress is focusing on the wrong things


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Editorial Board

The horrific shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month has revealed some important truths about the priorities our Congress holds.

Making gun silencers cheaper and easier to buy appears to be more important to Congress than continuing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health care for low-income children, or extending the Perkins student loan program, which provides loans to lower-income students.

Gun silencers are legal to purchase in 42 states, including Iowa. Buying one does, however, involve a $200 transfer tax and requires registration under the National Firearms Act of 1934. The registration can take up to nine months.

The proposed legislation would eliminate the transfer tax, make registration automatic and would provide refunds for any transfer tax on a silencer purchased after Oct. 22, 2015. 

While the proposed legislation appears to be aimed at halting the declining sales of silencers, the legislation purports to be based on health concerns. It is titled the “Hearing Protection Act.” 

Silencers do not entirely silence the sound of gunshots, but they do reduce and alter the sound significantly. That may be irrelevant while hunting, but it can make the sounds of shooting blend into a noisy cacophonous background in an urban setting.  

In Las Vegas, confusion reigned. How much worse would the panic have been if the gunshot had been rendered indistinguishable from fireworks or other celebratory sounds that occur regularly on the Strip?

If we watch mysteries or crime shows, we know the purpose of silencers is to reduce the chance of being caught while committing illegal acts. We accept this is a simplification. But the question remains. Why does Congress attend to the issue of gun silencers when children’s health is not acted on and student loan programs are not continued?

The silencer legislation was put on hold once before because Congress was addressing it the week Rep. Steve Scalise was shot at a baseball game.

The “optics” were bad then and they’re bad now. Congress should reconsider its priorities and attend to the needs of children and college students before making gun accessories cheaper and easier to buy.