This month 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.
The bill would remove suppressors from the provisions of the National Firearms Act (NFA), which requires buyers to pay a $200 tax and undergo an enhanced background check that can take up to nine months to complete. Suppressors would continue to be regulated like non-NFA firearms, which require a background check when sold by a licensed firearms dealer or across state lines.
Not surprisingly, anti-gun advocates and their media allies are furious that the gun community would dare remove an onerous and unnecessary law that limits their ability to protect against hearing loss while target shooting and hunting.
Washington Post reporter Michael S. Rosenwald announced that “violence prevention advocates are outraged that the industry is trying to ease silencer restrictions by linking the issue to the eardrums of gun owners.” Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times piled on, declaring that the naming of the “Hearing Protection Act” was “so absurdly transparent an effort to deceive that voters may be prompted to ask an obvious question: ‘What are they hiding?’”
Joining the anti-gun tirade, Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center contended that “they want the general public to think it’s about hearing aids or something,” arguing that “when the general public finds out what’s really happening, there will be outrage.” Kristin Brown of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence went so far as to argue “there’s no evidence of a public health issue associated with hearing loss from gunfire.
Let that sink in. A representative of the Brady Campaign argues that there is no evidence of hearing loss from gunfire. One is left to wonder if their zealotry blinds them to the truth or if they really are that ill-informed on firearms and their use.
Other anti-gun advocates argue that “silent” guns make it easier to commit crimes, citing YouTube videos and television shows where silencers reduce a gunshot to a faint cough. Professor Robert J. Spitzer, writing in the Washington Post, even argued that deafening noise “is an important safety feature of any firearm” and that “the lifesaving safety benefits of gun noise should weigh far more in the silencer debate.”
Supporters of so-called “common sense gun safety” are willfully blind to the reality that clear, objective scientific evidence demonstrates that suppressors prevent hearing loss. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and tinnitus are high-priority health issues – and the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable.
The benefits of suppressors are scientifically proven. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have both determined that even a single noise over 140 decibels causes hearing loss. The peak sound pressure of a gunshot ranges from a low of 144 decibels (.22 caliber rifle) to 172 decibels (.357 caliber revolver). A suppressor reduces the sound by approximately 30 decibels. In consequence, even suppressed firearms are loud – about 120-130 decibels – and louder than a car horn three feet away. It is, therefore, both inconsistent and illogical for the government to recommend – and even legally mandate – noise abatement for loud machines like lawn mowers and chainsaws while simultaneously setting large regulatory hurdles that discourage suppressor use with firearms.
Furthermore, suppressed firearms are not the choice of criminals, and the more than 100-year history of suppressors in both the United States and Europe demonstrates that anti-gun fearmongering is unfounded. A study of the criminal use of suppressors between 1995 and 2005 found only 15 used in crimes – and only two instances of being used in a murder. Indeed, as the number of federally-registered suppressors has nearly quadrupled in the last decade (from 150,364 in 2006 to 902,805 in 2016), the Violence Policy Center can identify only a scant handful of crimes committed with them. As Chicago Tribune editorial board member Steve Chapman notes, “any useful technology can be put to villainous ends,” and common sense demonstrates that the existing rule on silencers is “a major hassle for the law-abiding” while being “an irrelevance to criminals.”
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Violence Policy Center are counting on public ignorance and disinformation to derail a legitimate effort to allow gun owners to protect their hearing and the hearing of those around them. Armed with facts and scientific evidence, the National Rifle Association urges its members to contact their lawmakers to support the Hearing Protection Act of 2017.
You can contact your member of Congress via our Write Your Reps tool by clicking HERE or use the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.