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Local lawmakers are back in session this week and one of the first bills taken up for debate is legislation that proposes to remove Guam's prohibition on suppressors or silencers on firearms.
Bill 73-36, sponsored by Sens. Tony Ada, Frank Blas Jr., Chris Duenas and James Moylan, falls in line with a federal effort to loosen regulations on suppressors and shares the same name – the Hearing Protection Act.
As the name suggests, the intent of the bill is to remove restrictions on suppressors and silencers to reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss from firearms use.
If enacted, mufflers, silencers and other devices for deadening the sound of discharged firearms will be permitted on Guam provided that individuals comply with all federal laws and regulations.
Several residents testified in favor of the bill, as did the president of the American Suppressor Association.
But not all lawmakers were on board with the proposal.
Speaker Therese Terlaje, for example, expressed concerns about how suppressors could distort the noise of a gunshot and make it more difficult to identify where it might have come from.
GPD suggestions not included
During session, the speaker noted that the bill did not include suggestions from the Guam Police Department, which asked that in addition to federal requirements, there be corresponding a local statute for the purchase, possession and use of noise-reduction devices.
GPD asked for legislation that would require a registered Federal Firearms License dealer to be the conduit for obtaining the devices coming to Guam, legislation to address the transfer of legally possessed suppression devices, and legislation to address the shipment of suppressors to the island by military personnel, or others relocating to Guam who legally own the devices.
The police department also asked to establish a fee to register each device on Guam and proposed penalties for criminal use of suppressors and silencers.
Terlaje and Sen. Sabina Perez introduced two amendments that attempted to limit the legal use of suppressors on the island to law enforcement.
One would have created an exception to the current prohibition only for law enforcement safety training.
Ada opposed the amendment, saying that such amendments tie the hands of law-abiding citizens.
"Anyone with criminal intent will circumvent the law no matter what law we pass," Ada said, adding that instructions to make homemade suppressors are readily available on the internet.
"I ask my colleagues, go on YouTube, Google suppressors. Do it yourself. You buy an oil filter at Kmart, you put an adapter on it and you drill a hole right through it and you have a homemade suppressor. These are the types of amendments that are foolish," Ada said.
Terlaje said the amendment was to make up for not incorporating GPD's suggestions into Bill 73, citing jurisdictions that have exceptions to suppressor prohibitions for law enforcement.
"I would ask that we on Guam also make this recognition ... that we allow (law enforcement) to train and we protect their hearing," Terlaje said. "Those who need to continuously train ... that they will be allowed to do this when they are training, and allow it on that limited basis until a bill can be brought that adequately addresses GPD's concerns."
The amendment failed, with just Terlaje and Perez voting in favor.
The second amendment similarly permitted suppressors and other such devices for law enforcement safety training, and it too failed. Sen. Telena Nelson joined Perez and Terlaje in voting for the amendment.
The bill was placed into the third reading without objection, where it waits for later voting.
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