Did Silencer Make a Difference in the Va. Beach Shooting?

Gun-control advocates say suppressors, which are legal in Virginia, can give a shooter more time
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 2, 2019 5:39 AM CDT
Did Silencer Make a Difference in the Va. Beach Shooting?
Virginia Beach City Manager Dave Hansen, left, Virginia Beach Chief of Police James Cervera, center, and Mayor Bobby Dyer listen during a news conference Saturday, June 1, 2019 in Virginia Beach, Va.   (Bill Tiernan/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

The shooter who killed 12 people in a government building in Virginia Beach used a silencer. It's the nightmare scenario that gun-control advocates have warned about amid efforts in recent years to ease restrictions on the devices, which they say can help shooters escape detection and inflict more carnage. But gun-rights advocates and most law enforcement experts say DeWayne Craddock's use of a silencer likely had no bearing on his ability to kill so many people in so little time, reports the AP. Virginia is one of 42 states that allow residents to purchase suppressors, though some municipalities—including Virginia Beach—prohibit them. A silencer was attached to the .45-caliber handgun that police say the shooter used. That could partially explain why survivors said they were caught off guard and puzzled by what was happening. One described hearing a sound like a nail gun.

"This is the concern we were talking about when Republicans were trying to deregulate silencers as 'ear protection,'" said David Chipman, a retired agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and now with Giffords, a gun-control group. "Especially on a handgun, a suppressor will distort the sound in such a way that it would not immediately be recognizable as gunfire." Others say the shooter's use of a silencer was less of a factor than his familiarity with the building and his military background. "A suppressor does not alter the lethality of the weapon at all. All it does is just limit the noise it makes," says a retired member of the FBI's elite Hostage Response Team. "It doesn't increase the rate of fire." It also wasn't yet known how Craddock got the silencer, though he legally purchased multiple firearms recently. Silencers are regulated by the National Firearms Act, which also governs the sale of machine guns, and the extensive background check can take upward of eight months before the sale can go through.

(More Virginia Beach shooting stories.)

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