Earlier today, the governor signed a new law that will allow police officers who serve on SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) and Tactical Response Teams to possess and use silencers.  These officers are much more likely to fire their weapons than other officers, and they operate in situations where even a few seconds of hearing loss can make the difference between life and death.

“Police officers put their lives on the line to protect us every day, and the members of SWAT teams take some of the biggest risks of all,” said State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), the law’s chief Senate sponsor.  “Letting them use silencers will protect them, and make it easier for them to protect us.”

Whenever police officers fire their weapons, they experience a few seconds of hearing loss.  SWAT teams operate in tense, dangerous situations like rescuing hostages.  They need all their senses intact to be able to make split-second decisions.  Repeated exposure to gunfire without hearing protection can also lead to long-term hearing loss.

Under existing Illinois law, only federally-licensed arms manufacturers can own silencers, and they cannot sell them within the state.   Anyone else possessing a silencer—even a police department—is guilty of a class three felony, punishable by a $25,000 fine or two-to-five years in prison.

“We have strictly limited the use of silencers to SWAT teams and other special-purpose police squads,” Koehler explained.  “We are protecting their health and effectiveness without making it easier for criminals to get their hands on these potentially dangerous tools.”