TRENTON, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) joined local leaders and law enforcement officials in Trenton today to unveil new gun safety legislation banning the importation, sale, manufacture, transfer or possession of gun silencers in response to a mass shooter in Virginia Beach last month who used a silencer to help kill a dozen innocent people.

“Silencers undermine public safety. They undermine the ability of law enforcement to do their jobs. And they undermine the ability of Americans in the midst of mass shootings to survive,” Sen. Menendez said. “No one needs a silencer to defend themselves or their home, but everyone needs to be able to hear when their lives are in danger, and that’s exactly what the HEAR Act will do.”

Sen. Menendez plans to formally introduce his Help Empower Americans to Respond (HEAR) Act when the Senate reconvenes Monday.

A gun silencer, also known as a suppressor, attaches to the barrel of a firearm and muffles the sound and kickback of a gun. Silencers pose a great danger to law enforcement officers and the public since they are unable to detect the location of an active shooter. Although there are laws currently in place to regulate gun silencers, Republicans have continuously fought to deregulate the deadly devices. A nationwide ban on silencers would ensure the devices are not trafficked into states, such as New Jersey, where they are already prohibited.

“The sound of gunshots is what tells you that this is not just another drill. That this is not a nail gun. That this is not fireworks. The sound of gunshots is what tells you this is a real, life-and-death situation and it is time to run, hide, take cover and help others save themselves,” the Senator continued. “At the end of the day if you can hear a weapon, you might just be able to save a life.”

Silencers also diminish the effectiveness of gunshot detection technology used in cities like Trenton, Newark, East Orange and Atlantic City. This technology relies on audio sensors that record the sound, time and location of loud noises. When silencers are used, the devices are unable to detect the sound of gunshots.

Aside from prohibiting silencers, the HEAR Act would also:

  • Authorize a buyback program for silencers using federal Byrne JAG grants;
  • Provide individuals with a 90-day grace period after the date of enactment for individuals to comply with the ban;
  • Provide limited exceptions for certain current and former law enforcement personnel, for certain Atomic Energy personnel and purpose, and for certain authorized testing or experimentation.

Sen. Menendez was joined today at Trenton City Hall by Mayor Reed Gusciora, Trenton Police Director Sheilah Coley and representatives from Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action and Everytown.

Menendez Calls for Federal Ban on Gun Silencers

“Gun violence continues to plague our nation and I’m thankful for Senator Menendez's unrelenting leadership to put an end to this epidemic,” said Mayor Reed Gusciora. “Silencers don’t belong in our city, in our state, or in our country. This, and other gun regulations that Senator Menendez has championed, is about protecting families, law enforcement, and the community at large.”

“I applaud Senator Menendez’s leadership on commonsense gun safety reforms,” said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes. “Silencers muffle gunshots and make it near impossible for victims of mass shootings to escape. In order to prevent senseless gun violence in our country we must take bold measures such as banning silencers.”

“Silencers make it inherently harder for law enforcement to do their job and they pose a very real threat to communities across the nation,” said Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler. “I applaud Senator Menendez’s efforts to curb gun-related tragedies and keep America safe.”

“Senator Menendez has relentlessly fought to protect our families and our children,” said Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli (LD-15). “Mass shootings continue to plague our nation and we must do everything in our power to prevent these senseless tragedies. I commend the Senator for his continued leadership.”

“Silencers serve no functional purpose other than to make it easier to commit mass shootings,” said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (LD-15). “Banning silencers nationwide is a commonsense step in preventing further gun-related deaths. I thank Senator Menendez for his unremitting efforts in putting an end to the gun violence epidemic.”

Sen. Menendez has been one of the leading voices in Congress for commonsense gun safety reform.

Earlier this year, Sen. Menendez introduced the Keep Americans Safe Act to ban gun magazines that can hold over ten rounds and he introduced the Stopping the Traffic in Overseas Proliferation of Ghost Guns Act, which would block the Trump Administration’s efforts to weaken regulations on 3D guns.

In January, he introduced the Assault Weapons Ban and the Background Check Expansion Act. The senator voted for the original Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 as a member of the House of Representatives.

Last summer, he introduced the 3D Printing Safety Act and the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2018, two pieces of legislation to combat the threat posed from the spread of 3D printable guns.

Sen. Menendez also sponsored legislation that would close the gun show loophole, outlaw “bump stocks” and other devices that make semiautomatic weapons fully automatic, prevent those on the Terror Watch List from purchasing guns, and improve access to mental health and addiction treatment.