For the second time in three months, a bill that would ease regulations on the purchase of suppressors for firearms and counts the president’s eldest son among its top boosters has been sidelined by a high-profile domestic shooting.
That bill, known as the Hearing Protection Act, which was rolled into the pre-existing Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, was supposed to have a hearing on June 14—the day of the shooting that targeted GOP members of Congress who were practicing for the congressional baseball game.
That hearing was canceled. But the bill stayed alive, awaiting a full vote on the House floor as soon as this week.
That may now be scuttled after a shooter opened fired on a crowd of country music concert-goers in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring more than 500—the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) declined to speculate on whether Sunday night’s tragedy has changed the GOP’s calculus. But according to the House schedule, the bill is not on the docket for this week.
That the SHARE Act even got to this point underscores the potency of the gun rights lobby and the relationships it has cultivated both in Congress and within President Donald Trump’s innermost circle.
Utah-based SilencerCo is one of the top manufacturers of suppressors in the United States. And its CEO Josh Waldron counts Donald Trump Jr. as a top ally.
Prior to Trump’s inauguration, Waldron got an assist from the president’s eldest son in helping to popularize his company’s products. Trump Jr., an avid hunter, appeared in a promotional video for SilencerCo in September of 2016.
“I love your product,” Trump Jr. told Waldron in the video. “It’s just a great instrument. There’s nothing bad about it at all. It makes total sense. It’s where we should be going." He added that they could even help get “little kids into the game” of hunting.
The younger Trump also said that his father would be supportive of silencer legislation if it actually made it through Congress.
“We want to go through Congress. We want to do it the right way,” Trump Jr. said. “But if you line up the votes, he's obviously going to be for it.”
A few short weeks after the video went online, Josh and Audrey Waldron contributed a combined $50,000 to the Trump Victory fund, and each gave $2,700 to Trump’s campaign directly. Waldron’s affiliation with Trump Jr. seemed to offer additional perks. He was named to Trump’s “Second Amendment Coalition” and invited to the inauguration. Waldron also said that he had dinner with Trump Jr. a “couple of times” during which they primarily discuss hunting. But Waldron pushed back on the notion that his financial support had bought access to and the favor with the president.
“You know a lot of people think that the Trump administration is in my back pocket or in the industry’s back pocket,” Waldron said in a phone interview in July. “They don’t even talk to us in most instances.”
“I was hoping he would be more aggressive on gun issues and take a stand,” he added.
If Trump has disappointed Waldron, the House likely hasn’t. The SHARE Act has numerous boosters among congressional Republicans, many of whom Waldron met regarding the issue—often to insist that guns with suppressors “still [are] very loud, loud as a jackhammer.” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the House Natural Resources Committee’s chairman, praised the bill upon passage. And Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who first introduced the Hearing Protection Act, said the legislation would make it more likely that American sportsmen would not suffer hearing loss over time.
The shooting in Las Vegas complicates its passage through the House. (It always faced a tough road in the Senate.) Democrats and activists demanded on Monday that House Republicans drop the legislative push, with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband Mark Kelly returning to Capitol Hill on Monday to issue a warning about gun suppressors.
“Imagine how much worse last night’s shooting could have been if the gunman had a silencer,” Kelly said at a press conference outside the Capitol.
Hillary Clinton also weighed in on the issue, writing on Twitter: “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots. Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
Waldron did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday as to whether he thinks his pet issue is now doomed. At the White House, there was no indication that the president or his team were backing off the bill. But Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was adamant on Monday that it wasn’t time to discuss gun legislation.
“I don’t think that that is something that would have changed,” Sanders said when asked about the bill. “Again, I think before we start trying to talk about the preventions of what took place last night, we need to know more facts. And right now we’re simply not at that point.”