With the country reeling from the deadliest mass shooting in its history, the House could soon vote on a bill that would lift restrictions on the sale of silencers, making them easier and more affordable to purchase. Critics are concerned that silencers could make mass shootings, such as the Sunday massacre in Las Vegas, more deadly. The gun industry has lobbied extensively on the measure — and Donald Trump Jr. is an outspoken supporter.

“It’s about hearing protection,” he said in January. “It’s a health issue, frankly, for me. You know, getting little kids into the game, it greatly reduces recoil!”

The National Rifle Association has predictably backed the bill, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017, as has the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the American Suppressor Association. Utah-based SilencerCo, the largest manufacturer of silencers in the U.S., reportedly gave $200,000 to the National Shooting Sports Foundation and an Illinois firearms auction house. Under the 1934 National Firearms Act, buyers must specifically register silencers, undergo a federal screening that can take nine months and pay a $200 tax. The bill before Congress would remove the tax and turn the current screening process into an instant background check.

Donald Trump Jr -Guns, Silencers Donald Trump Jr. says silencers are a "health issue." Photo: SilencerCo.

The bill — H.R.367 — is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), and the Senate version is sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID). Co-sponsors of the bills include two Republican politicians from Nevada, Rep. Mark Amodei and Sen. Dean Heller. Duncan has also added the Hearing Protection Act to the House’s Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, or SHARE Act, which he introduced on September 1.

SilencerCo also strongly backed the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s presidential bid. In September 2016,  Donald Trump Jr. visited SilencerCo’s plant in Utah, where he sat down for a video interview with the company’s CEO Joshua Waldron. In that video Waldron said he was working on changing silencer regulations, to which Trump Jr. responded “I think you should.”

In that interview, Trump Jr. echoed the gun industry’s rhetoric that silencers address a public health issue and are meant to protect gun users’ hearing — hence the name of the bill before Congress, the Hearing Protection Act. When asked if his father would sign the bill should it pass Congress, Trump Jr. responded that “he’s obviously going to be for it.”

A few weeks later, on October 6, Waldron and his wife, Audrey, gave $100,000 total to a joint fundraising committee that distributed the money between Trump’s campaign ($5,400), the Republican National Committee ($44,600) and the Republican Party groups of numerous states ($50,000). Joshua Waldron ended up being invited to Trump’s inauguration, and he proudly publicized his visit to the event.

During the 2015-16 election cycle, Joshua Waldron also donated $1,000 each to the American Shooting Sports Foundation PAC and the American Suppressor Association PAC.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s team of lobbyists includes Patrick Rothwell, who previously worked as a Republican congressional staffer, including as chief of staff to Rep. Lou Barletta (PA), who co-sponsored the bill. Rothwell’s lobbying disclosure form did not list his work in Congress, as is required by law.

Opponents of the Hearing Prevention Act argue that silencers could make it more difficult to locate the source of shooting during a mass shooting event. Witness accounts from Las Vegas say that people sought shelter when they heard the sound of gunfire. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle the day before the shooting, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), who opposes the bill, said that “what [a silencer] does is it disperses the sound, so you can’t identify where the sound is coming from. It puts both law enforcement and the public at risk.”

Groups opposing the bill include the Brady Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which have all lobbied against the Hearing Protection Act.

Gun Show Held In Las Vegas LAS VEGAS, NV: Brett DeMille demonstrates an AR-15 rifle with a silencer at the L.A.R./Grizzly Firearms booth at the National Shooting Sports Foundation's 33rd annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, January 18, 2011 Photo: Getty