The National Hearing Protection Act Should Be Music to Gun Lovers’ Ears

Gun lovers hear it all the time from people who didn’t grow up around firearms. “They’re so loud!” Fortunately for those with sensitive hearing, guns can be made quieter by using a device known as a suppressor.

Suppressors cut down on the sound and sight of muzzle blast by reducing the noise signature and visible flash. Their internal baffle components work to slow and cool down the gas which escapes when a gun is fired.

A common misconception is that suppressors completely silence a gun. In reality, this is not the case. Rather, a suppressor brings the decibel of gunfire down to a safer hearing level. By taking the decibel level down from around 180 to approximately 140 decibels, suppressors protect one against irreparable hearing loss.

On the downside, obtaining a suppressor requires some red tape at this time. Gun owners have to fill out a lot of paperwork and spend a bit of money to get their hands on a suppressor. That’s because suppressors are currently regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934.

Luckily, a bill has been introduced in the House and Senate to change all this. The National Hearing Protection Act of 2017 seeks to eliminate the $200 transfer tax on firearm silencers and treat any person who acquires a suppressor as meeting any registration or licensing requirements of the National Firearms Act with regard to said suppressor.

The National Hearing Protection Act would limit regulation to simply passing a background check before one can purchase a suppressor. Naturally, one might wonder why the bill hasn’t been passed yet given that it seems like an easy fix. The problem is that the House and Senate are bombarded with bills for all sorts of things and the focus has largely been on tax reform and health care reform.

The bill was introduced on January 9th of 2017 and was swiftly referred to the Committee on Ways and Means as well as the Committee on the Judiciary, after which it was referred to the House Ways and Means…after which is was referred to the House Judiciary. Finally, on February 6th, it landed on the desk of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

There, it has stagnated ever since, but several organizations have stepped up to take action and get the legislation passed. The American Suppressor Association, Fight the Noise, Change.org and many other notable groups have come out in support of the bill.

They have turned to the public, imploring them to let their voices be heard by signing online petitions. Last year, the bill had 100 sponsors in the House.

The bill was tucked into the bipartisan Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, legislation that would cover everything from recreational fishing law and polar bear conservation to the elimination of authority to reclassify popular rifle ammo as “armor piercing ammunition.”

The National Hearing Protection Act has attracted consternation from Democrats and gun control groups. This controversy reached a fever pitch in the immediate aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting. As with most of the anti-gun gun rhetoric, the bill was slammed as posing a risk to public safety.

Opponents of the legislation falsely suggested that making suppressors readily accessible would make it more difficult for law enforcement to identify where gunshots are coming from, particularly in the event of a mass shooting.

But those of us who have worked in the field already know that criminals do not use suppressors, not because they aren’t available on the black market but because they add six to eight inches to the end of a barrel, making the gun harder to conceal.

Furthermore, the company behind ShotSpotter technology have already found that they are able to pick up on suppressed fire with their software, suggesting that they can easily tweak their program to identify muffled gunfire.

Reps. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and John Carter (R-TX) who proposed the bill have been vocal about their intent and it has nothing to do with placing anyone in danger. On the contrary, their agenda is aimed at saving hunters as well as their hunting dogs from developing hearing loss.

As Rep. Duncan has said, “My hearing has been damaged because of gun noise. Had I had access to a suppressor, it may have protected me, as well as millions of other Americans, from this sort of hearing loss.”

For those who want to see this bill become a reality, the right thing to do is to contact one’s local congressman. To find out their contact info, visit congress.gov for their phone number and email address.

Before one becomes defeatist about the bill lying dormant for so long, it is important to keep in mind that the National Hearing Protection Act remains in the top ten bills viewed by the public, a fact that no doubts catches the attention of the House.

As we wait for the wheels of justice to slowly turn in our favor, there are plenty of options for protecting your hearing when using firearms. Noise reduction devices like electronic earmuffs and noise canceling hearing protectors are widely available online. Some websites that offer ear and eye protection also provide a military discount and giveaways.

At present, the bill has 141 co-sponsors in the House. That’s in spite of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s attempts at shelving the bill for good. And those numbers can grow if we the people apply appropriate pressure.

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