Thanks to President Trump’s election, there is renewed interest in promoting safe and responsible firearms use. That includes promoting gun safety in the form of hearing protection. Given precedent and Republican control of all branches of government, it’s incumbent upon Congress to pass the Hearing Protection Act to deregulate suppressors.
Suppressors are gunshot-muffling devices retrofitted for rifles, shotguns, and pistols. When a gun is fired, propellant gasses travel from a small barrel chamber into open air. As pressure and temperature change, it results in the blast we commonly associate with guns. When a suppressor is attached to the barrel of a firearm, it allows the gasses contained there to have more space to dissipate and cool before being exposed to open air. Therefore, a suppressor will reduce gunshot noise to safe hearing levels below 140 decibels. This doesn’t mean forgoing hearing protection altogether. In turn, it will reduce gunshot noise by roughly 20 to 35 decibels—which is the equivalent of wearing earplugs or earmuffs.
The Hearing Protection Act has a good shot of passing in the 115th Congress. Why? Renewed interest in deregulating suppressors (also known as “silencers”) came last fall after Donald Trump, Jr. met with SilencerCo, a Utah-based company that manufactures silencers.
“It’s about safety,” Trump Jr. explained in a September video interview with SilencerCo’s founder. “It’s a health issue, frankly.”
Trump is absolutely correct. Suppressors are a hot commodity in the firearms industry. Over 900,000 were sold, per ATF estimates, as of February 2016. Gun owners and other firearms enthusiasts are very concerned about hearing protection. That’s why members of Congress have jumped on board to deregulate them.
House and Senate versions of the proposed legislation were introduced on Jan. 9, 2017. H.R. 367, also known as the Duncan-Carter Bill, was introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) and has 81 co-sponsors. The latter—S.59—was introduced by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) as co-sponsors. Similar legislation was introduced in the 114th Congress but failed to garner traction. However, it’ll likely pass this session.
Suppressors are currently legal in 42 states but are difficult to obtain. Those interested in purchasing them must undergo a rigorous process due to current federal and state regulations currently in place under the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Firearms Act. In order to purchase a suppressor, one must be a resident of the U.S., must be legally eligible to purchase a firearm, and consent to a BAFTE background check. Moreover, one must be at least 21 years old to purchase it from a dealer or at least 18 years old to purchase it from another person.
If HPA passes, it will remove suppressors from the NFA, meaning the purchase and transfer of suppressors would be treated like long guns. Those interested in purchasing suppressors will consent to an instant NICS background check following purchase and a maximum transfer tax valued at $200. Following passage of this bill, anyone paying the $200 transfer tax on a suppressor after January 9, 2017, will qualify for a tax refund.
Suppressors have many added benefits in addition to hearing protection. They reduce firearm recoil by making it easier for increased accuracy while target shooting. The American Suppressor Association also notes suppressors help contain the explosion of gunpowder at the muzzle of a firearm by reducing recoil and helping decrease muzzle flinch—leading to improved accuracy, precise shot placements, and more humane hunting harvests.
Like many other responsible gun owners out there, I would like to access and purchase suppressors with greater ease one day. Why? I hope to enhance my target shooting experience and continue practicing the safe handling of firearms. Suppressors not only protect a shooter’s hearing, but also enable shooters to shoot more precisely and not disrupt nearby surroundings.
Let’s hope Congress acts on this important safety measure during this 115th session.
Gabriella Hoffman (@Gabby_Hoffman) is a conservative media strategist and consultant based in Northern Virginia.
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