BOSTON (State House News Service) – A firearms business in western Massachusetts plans by summer’s end to acquire a company that makes firearm suppressors — an “opportunistic” move it says will help it expand into a growing market as states across the country legalize gun suppressors for consumers.
Springfield-based Smith & Wesson Corp., a branch of American Outdoor Brands Corporation, announced Monday it will acquire Gemini Technologies, Incorporated. The Idaho company known as Gemtech manufactures “high quality suppressors and accessories for the consumer, law enforcement, and military markets.”
James Debney, president and CEO of American Outdoor Brands, said Gemtech will be an “excellent fit” with the company’s long-term strategy.
“Gemtech is widely recognized for producing some of the finest rifle and pistol suppressors in the market. Gemtech’s strong product development capabilities, combined with our experience in brand management and our manufacturing expertise, will help us to efficiently develop both firearms and suppressors, minimizing our time to market for both product categories,” Debney said in a statement. “We view this acquisition as opportunistic, allowing us to enter the suppressor category, which resonates strongly with our core firearm consumer, at a time when the market is particularly soft.”
Massachusetts consumers would not be among those purchasing gun suppressors from Smith & Wesson. The commonwealth is one of eight states that does not allow consumers to use suppressors and one of 10 that bans them for hunting, according to the American Suppressor Association. Only law enforcement officers and manufacturers may handle gun suppressors in Massachusetts.
A suppressor has a larger volume than the barrel of a gun, so the hot gas from the ignited gunpowder that pushes the bullet forward has more space to expand in the suppressor. The gas is under less pressure and makes less noise when the bullet exits a gun through a suppressor rather than just the barrel.
The Gun Owner’s Action League of Massachusetts, a group that advocates for consumer gun rights, called firearm suppressors the “hearing protection of the 21st century” for sportsmen across the country.
“By decreasing the overall sound signature, suppressors help to preserve the hearing of recreational shooters and hunters. It also can help to mitigate noise complaints from those who live near shooting ranges and hunting land,” the Gun Owner’s Action League said in a statement.
Several Beacon Hill lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have filed bills to allow Massachusetts consumers to purchase and use gun suppressors.
Rep. Josh Cutler filed H. 763, Sen. Michael Moore filed S 1340, Sen. Donald Humason filed S 1317. Moore and Rep. Paul Frost filed H 789.
Last year, Humason filed S 1271, which would have allowed consumers to own gun suppressors. The bill was reported favorably by the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security and referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee in March 2016. No further action was taken.
Humason, of Westfield, also spoke to the gun suppressor issue last year during a legislative session that took up an illegal hunting bill. Humason withdrew a gun suppressor amendment he filed at that time with the promise that the Senate would revisit the issue.
“Our minds automatically think of James Bond and silencers used by assassins to perpetuate evil deeds. That is not what this is about. Maybe this is something we should get to at another time. It would be a very good amendment for business owners here in Massachusetts where there is a company that manufactures these suppressors. This would be helpful to quiet the sound of those hunting or shooting activities so as to not bother those who do not enjoy hunting like we do,” Humason said.
Jim Wallace, the executive director of the Gun Owner’s Action League of Massachusetts, said he’s hopeful that the state will pass gun suppressor legislation once more people become educated about what suppressors do.
“With firearms there are so many myths out there about what guns can do and can’t do, and are and are not. Suppressors are the same way. It takes a lot of education,” Wallace said.
Gun suppressors are already manufactured in the western part of the state by Yankee Hill Machine, a firearms manufacturer and dealer based in Florence, a village in the city of Northampton.
John Rosenthal, co-founder of Newton-based nonprofit Stop Handgun Violence, disagreed that suppressors are a boon for sportsmen. Instead, Rosenthal said, firearm suppressors make it easier to kill people in public.
“It’s harder to hear the shot and you can kill people in public without notice and Smith & Wesson is no different than Donald Trump, Jr. who is promoting his silencer company that he’s invested in. It’s all about making it easier to kill without being caught,” Rosenthal said. “A company that is in the business of making it easier for people to kill without getting caught is disgusting.”
Massachusetts had the fewest gun deaths in the country in 2015, with 3.13 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Rosenthal said that figure can be attributed to the state’s tough gun laws and cautioned that deaths will go up if gun suppressor legislation passes in Massachusetts.
Rosenthal criticized the Gemtech acquisition and said Smith & Wesson has gone from being part of the solution to a major part of the country’s gun violence problem over the last decade or so.
“Smith & Wesson will be laughing all the way to the bank while the rest of us are crying over the deaths of our loved ones, it’s that simple … It’s all about the money,” Rosenthal said. “I’m a gun owner and a business person. I have no interest in banning guns, but you have to be honest. There is no use for a silencer for sporting, the only use for a silencer is assassinating somebody without detection, without being heard. Smith & Wesson should be ashamed of themselves, they live in the safest state in the nation … and they are pushing instruments of death on this country without a conscience.”
Smith & Wesson plans to complete the acquisition of Gemtech over the summer.
Gemtech President Ron Martinez will become the company’s general manager and lead its team in Eagle, Idaho. A spokeswoman for Smith & Wesson said the value of the deal is undisclosed and Gemtech plans to remain in Idaho.
“The company intends to complete the acquisition of Gemtech utilizing cash on hand and expects the transaction to close this summer,” the company said in a statement.