In past columns I’ve discussed suppressors or as they are often referred to, silencers. These simple devices can and do reduce hearing loss that results from exposure to the extremely loud and concentrated noise that results from gunfire. Two bills have been introduced in Congress that would change the procurement process for individuals that wish to obtain a silencer. The Hearing Protection Act of 2017 was introduced in the Senate by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) with co-sponsors Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rand Paul (R-KY) as S.59. Representatives Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and John Carter (R-TX) – together with 42 co-sponsors – introduced a similar bill in the House as H.R. 367.
Rather than having to fill out an application, pay $200.00 for a NFA tax stamp, and wait for ATF approval that can take from 3 months or more, all one would have to do is fill out ATF Form 4473, pass the requisite NICS background check, then pay for and take delivery of one’s chosen suppressor device.
In typical fashion gun control advocates are spreading the usual “fake news” regarding the use of silencers. They would have us believe the Hollywood version that silencers make gunfire blasts from a firearm turn into a whisper; that simply isn’t true. Suppressors are capable of reducing the noise from a gun by about 30 decibels. Here are a couple of examples; the peak sound pressure of a gunshot ranges from a low of 144 decibels (.22 caliber rifle) to 172 decibels (.357 caliber revolver). Suppressed sound levels will be reduced to about 115-140 decibels. These levels are still louder than your average car horn blaring 3 feet away, hardly a whisper.
I have personally suffered substantial hearing loss and I have tinnitus in my left ear. The wind blowing noise in my ear never stops, is extremely nettlesome, and, most importantly, there is no cure. I have tried almost all of the “natural” homeopathic remedies, none have worked. While exposure to gunfire isn’t the main cause of hearing problems, it has been a factor. OHSA and NIOSH have both determined that a single noise blast of 140 decibels can cause serious and permanent hearing damage and loss. It only makes sense to ease restrictions on suppressors so that they are more readily available to the shooting public. Another plus is that as the market for silencers increases, their cost will decrease, possibly dramatically; look at what has happened to flat screen HD TVs in the last decade.
Gun control advocates are claiming that crimes involving suppressed firearms will sky-rocket with the easier access to silencers. A study by Paul A. Clark, Alaska Public Defender Agency, found only 15 criminal uses of suppressors (only two of those involved murder) between 1995 and 2005, Compare that with the quadrupling of registered devices between 2006 and 2016 (150,364 to 902,805). Obviously claims of increased criminal activity with the use of suppressors is simply more fear-mongering from the gun grabber crowd. There is really no reason to make purchase and possession of a suppressor so difficult for law abiding citizens. While firearms ownership can be difficult in many European countries, many of those same countries allow the sale of silencers at hardware stores.
Suppressors, aka silencers can prevent hearing damage and loss. They are not evil devices used by criminals to commit heinous deeds, but simple tools that can add to the health of shooters everywhere, and both bills referenced above require NICS background checks. This is one of many changes that can bring the National Firearms Act into the 21st Century. I strongly suggest you contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to support this hearing healthy legislation.
Be safe and good shooting.