The National Rifle Association is shifting into high gear to shoot down federal and state barriers to buying gun suppressors, believing that the inauguration of President Trump will help to clear the way to easy and low-cost purchases of silencers.
“It’s going to be a new day, it’s a new opportunity to hit the reset button,” said Chris Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist and the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “This is a fight we can win,” he added during last week’s annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
The Hearing Protection Act of 2017 is the vehicle for ending the federal $200 tax and waiting period for purchasing silencers, and it has won the full support of the NRA.
Critics have mocked the name as simplistic, but Trump’s son, Donald Jr., recently said the issue is all about hearing health. “It’s about safety, it’s about hearing protection, it’s a health issue,” he said. “There’s nothing bad about it at all.”
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He added that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would shut down gun ranges because of noise if the Labor Department agency had its way.
While countries in Europe approve the use of suppressors at ranges and while hunting, the gun accessory has been demonized in America, especially in movies where they are often shown as the tools of assassins.
To help lawmakers pushing the Hearing Protection Act, Cox and others at the NRA have stepped up their campaign against that image while making the case that it’s an extension of gun safety.
“Criminals don’t use them other than in movies,” Cox said. He said Hollywood and the media are “intentionally trying to mislead the American people, scare ’em.”
The NRA’s Internet star, lawyer and gun rights activist Colion Noir, is also fighting the issue on his NRATV show.
“I ought to be able to protect my life without going deaf in the process,” he said. “Complacency and apathy will always be the catalyst to the degradation our rights,” he said. “You know who decides what normal is? The people with the loudest voice. So if you want to protect your freedom, take the suppressor off your mouth and put it on your gun.”
FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC) and John Carter (TX-31) on Monday for introducing the Hearing Protection Act, an important bill that gives gun owners and sportsmen the opportunity to better protect their ears and hearing.
“Many gun owners and sportsmen suffer severe hearing loss after years of shooting, and yet the tool necessary to reduce such loss is onerously regulated and taxed. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA. “The Duncan-Carter Hearing Protection Act would allow people easier access to suppressors, which would help them to better protect their hearing.”
The Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367, would remove suppressors from regulation under the National Firearms Act, replacing the federal transfer process with a National Instant Criminal Background Check. The bill would reduce the cost of purchasing a suppressor by removing the $200 transfer tax.
Suppressors are often mischaracterized in Hollywood. They do not “silence” the sound of a firearm. Instead, they act as mufflers and can reduce the noise of a gunshot to hearing safe levels. Not only do suppressors reduce hearing damage for the shooter, they reduce the noise of ranges located near residential areas.
H.R. 367 would make it easier for gun owners and sportsmen to purchase suppressors in the 42 states where they are currently legal. Purchasers would have to pass a background check to buy them, and prohibited people would be denied.
NRA is proud to have partnered with ASA on this important legislation.
“Gun owners and sportsmen should be able to practice their sport with the tools necessary to do so safely. This bill makes it easier for them to do that,” concluded Cox.
Gun rights advocates hope to remove a number of federal restrictions related to the purchase and ownership of firearm silencers.
The Hearing Protection Act would exempt silencers from the National Firearms Act of 1934, a law that also regulates fully automatic weapons. Under the current law, individuals who wish to purchase a silencer must pay a $200 tax and wait several months for the ATF to process paperwork on the item before bringing the accessory home. The process is more complex than buying a firearm.
A coalition of gun rights groups, including the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, are making the Hearing Protection Act a top priority for 2016. SilencerCo, a leading silencer manufacturer, is also at the center of the effort.
“It could be a really big deal for the gun industry,” said SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron, who also holds positions at the American Suppressor Association and NRA. “We’re gaining momentum. The best part about this bill is we didn’t understand how much support we would get from all of the organizations: NSSF, NRA, Congressional Sportsman Foundation. It’s really a strong push because in essence everybody understands what suppressors really are.”
“They make hunting and shooting safer. That’s an issue that everybody can get behind on both sides of the table.”
Waldron said his company was heavily involved in crafting the bill and has advocated on its behalf through advertising and email-writing campaigns. “We helped the American Suppressor Association in drafting the language for the bill,” Waldron said. “From our website alone we’ve generated 60,000 letters sent to lawmakers in support of HPA.”
Rep. Matt Salmon (R., Ariz.), an avid shooter who uses silencers and introduced the Hearing Protection Act, said he has seen a groundswell of support from his colleagues.
“It’s been very positive,” Salmon said. “We already have 55 co-sponsors. We have Democrats on the bill as well. It’s actually picking up a lot of steam. Suppressors really should’ve never been placed in the act in the first place. I think it was a mistake in the first place. There’s no rationale. It’s not the same as fully automatic weapon. To me it’s a great training tool.”
Salmon and Waldron both said silencers are not used in crime.
“There have been zero legally-owned suppressors used in crimes since the ‘30s,” Waldron claimed.
Salmon said that is why there has been little organized resistance to the bill.
“They’re just not used in crimes,” Salmon said. “People are buying them for training purposes and because they are concerned about the noise levels. Most people that have any level of opposition to it are operating on urban legend instead of reality. They’re the kind of people that get all of their knowledge from watching The Bourne Identity.”
“I think once people know exactly what they do and the benefits they have, the opposition just kinda withers up because it’s not rational,” Salmon said.
Two leading gun control groups, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety, did not respond to a request for comment about the bill, but gun control advocates have opposed silencers in the past.
“A silencer is useful to assassins but clearly has no purpose for sportsmen. Silencers are also illegal,” a 2008 report by the Brady Center said.
Many gun advocates view silencers as safety devices because they dampen the sound of gunshots so they do not damage shooters’ hearing. Some hunters like silencers because they prefer not to use hearing protection that blocks out the sound of approaching game. This results in hearing loss for many hunters, including Salmon.
Waldron said that current restrictions on silencers do not make sense. He pointed out that silencers and car mufflers are essentially the same technology, invented by the same man.
“It’s ridiculous when you think about it,” Waldron said. “Can you imagine if you had to pay a $200 tax for your muffler for your car and had to wait six months before you could go pick up your car from the lot? It doesn’t make any logical sense.”
Advocates of the bill said it is likely to pass the House and Senate easily this year, but will face a potential veto from President Obama.
Text for H.R.3799 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): Hearing Protection Act of 2015