The president's son expressed excitement in Sept. 2016 for a device that makes guns safer and many people are losing their minds over it today.
"I love your product," Donald Trump Jr. told the CEO of Utah-based SilencerCo, which manufactures gun suppressors. "It's just a great instrument. There's nothing bad about it at all. It makes total sense." During the pre-election interview, Trump even added that suppressors could help get "little kids into the game" of hunting.
Depending on geography and political preference, that sentiment is either commonplace or totally verboten. The gun culture that coastal liberals are inclined to write off immediately, conservatives from middle America embrace almost instinctively. Trump's comments provide a perfect microcosm of this ongoing phenomenon.
Misunderstood and mislabeled as "silencers," suppressors have become a flashpoint in the current gun debate post-Las Vegas. Hillary Clinton tried politicizing the suppressor issue, claiming that the carnage would've been worse had the gunman used a silencer. Her claim was immediately shot down by fact checkers on both the Left and the Right.
Guns are loud and, unlike in the movies, silenced guns are still loud. Even with an attached suppressor, a bullet from an AR-15 makes about as much noise as a passing freight train. In short, they dampen noise. They do not mute.
That is still a significant safety benefit for avid shooters. According to the former director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, Timothy Wheeler, easing federal regulation on the devices could prevent "permanent hearing loss in tens of millions of Americans." And suppressors also reduce muzzle velocity as Trump Jr. pointed out, making it easier to introduce young children to the shooting sports.
Most gun owners wouldn't think twice about those benefits. Anyone who learned to shoot rifles with the Boy Scouts, muzzleloaders with 4-H, or shotguns with their fathers during hunting season would probably accept the devices automatically. More guns, in their minds, mean more freedom and more fun.
The exact opposite is true for anyone unfamiliar with shooting sports. No matter the true benefit, any gun accessory automatically amounts to an increase in danger. Once firearms have been written off altogether, no amount of evidence will change their mind.
This is significant because in a moment of national mourning, two well-intentioned groups are talking completely past each other. After one group went shooting alone, the nation has come apart on guns. Both sides of the debate have developed an unfortunate hair trigger. Unless that's overcome, public hysteria and hasty lawmaking will result.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.