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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Is the Hearing Protection Act About to Move in Congress?

That is the sense you would get from the number of articles that have surfaced in the past few days.  USA today had this article on Friday, The Hill had this article on Monday, and the Washington Post also had an editorial Monday urging Congress to give a stiff arm to efforts to reform the NFA by removing suppressors from regulation under the law.

First let's take a look at article in The Hill with some history of how we got here:
"The [sound suppressors] were a victim of the success of his marketing," said Knox Williams, president of the American Suppressor Association, which is working with the NRA on this issue. Williams referenced Hiram Percy Maxim, who first used the term in the early 1900s when he invented what he referred to as the Maxim Silencer. The term later caught on with legislators and regulators.
"He labeled it as a silent firearm, and people took it for gospel," Williams said of Maxim.
You'll also note that the gun ban lobby wants no part of calling these accessories what they really are - suppressors.
“Focusing on the name distracts people from the real conversation,” Watts said. “They did the same thing with the debate over whether to use the term ‘assault rifles’ or ‘semiautomatic rifles,’ and then the whole conversation shifted to ‘What are we going to call these things?’” 
As NSSF's Larry Keane notes in the article, it's is more accurate to call them suppressors because they don't silence the firearm, they just lower the level of noise.

The USA Today article was about a demonstration for the media at the NRA Range in Fairfax by the American Suppressor Association.
The reporters’ demonstration — including suppressed and unsuppressed shooting with rifles, handguns and a shotgun — was similar to one the groups have been increasingly offering lawmakers as they ramp up pressure to pass the Hearing Protection Act. That bill that would remove silencers from the National Firearms Act, which has regulated silencers along with machine guns for more than 80 years since the days of gangland crime such as Chicago's 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Passage of the bill would mean silencer buyers would no longer have to pay a $200 tax, submit fingerprints and a photograph, notify law enforcement officers and wait about 10 months while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wades through a backlog to process the application and register the weapon. They would still have to pass an instant background check, as they would with any firearm.
Then there is the editorial from the Washington Post:
The Hearing Protection Act’s supporters argue that current strictures harm lawful gun owners by denying them an effective means of muffling dangerous noise. And it’s true: Gunshots are loud, generally louder than the 140-decibel limit for “impulse noises” set by federal occupational safety and health authorities. Audiologists have found that hunters’ risk of significant high-frequency hearing loss increases by seven percent for every five years they hunt. Yet the sound of gunfire also has benefits, health- and safety-wise. The “bang” can signal to bystanders to take cover or help police to locate a threat. Maybe that’s why they say rifles “report.”

To be sure, the noise-reduction devices at issue do not eliminate gun noise; they reduce it by 30 decibels or so, making “suppressor” a more accurate term, and mitigating whatever additional risk the general public might face if the law results in more use of silencers, including unlawful use, as opponents fear. Silencers are almost never used in murders and other crimes under the current restrictive law, but certainly they would be used in more crimes if there were more of them in circulation.
Apparently, the Post editors have never seen a suppressor on a handgun or long gun.  Criminals prefer firearms that are concealable and a suppressor on a handgun almost doubles the size of the firearm, making it difficult to conceal.

I don't know anyone pushing the legislation, from NRA to the American Suppressor Association that says if you have a suppressor you don't need ear protection as the Washington Post and the gun ban group from the Hill article, Americans for Responsible Solutions, infer.  And to the Post's suggestion that we make sure every shooter use ear muffs or foam plugs before we change the law related to suppressors, maybe they should read this article.  But the Post isn't really concerned about the hearing of shooters. They gave it away in the opening of the editorial.  If the NRA is for it, than the Post is going to oppose it.

UPDATE: Last week NSSF hosted the media at Elite Shooting Sports in Manassas.

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