January 11, 2021
The NSSF, the firearm industry’s trade association, commends U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-S.C.) introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 95. The legislation was introduced with 36 original co-sponsors.
The bill would remove firearm suppressors from the list of definitions under the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), eliminating onerous and duplicitous background checks. Instead, what is essentially a muffler for a gun would be regulated under the 1968 Gun Control Act (GCA) with the same background check that is required for a retail firearm purchase.
Firearm suppressors are legal to own and possess in 42 states and 40 states allow them for hunting.
“This legislation removes barriers to owning an accessory that makes recreational shooting and hunting safer, more accurate and allows shooting ranges to be better neighbors,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “Firearm suppressors are a safety device designed to make recreational shooting safer. They were originally listed under the NFA over concerns of poaching during the Great Depression, but that never bore out. Even today, suppressors are exceedingly rarely used in crime. NSSF thanks Congressman Duncan for his leadership to remove barriers to safe recreational shooting.”
Firearm suppressors, legally but inaccurately referred to as “silencers,” are devices that reduce the report of a firearm from a level roughly equal to that of a jet taking off which causes instant and permanent hearing loss to one that is safe, but still equal to a jackhammer. That decibel level will not permanently damage hearing. Suppressors work similar to a car’s muffler, redirecting exhaust gases and was originally patented more than 100 years ago by the same designer of car mufflers, Hiram Maxim.
The Marine Corps recently announced the fielding of 30,000 suppressors after extensive field testing demonstrated their use significantly reduced noise and permanent hearing loss among Marines. Many countries in Europe that have stringent gun control laws require the use of a suppressor when hunting or recreationally shooting. They are widely available and can often be purchased in a hardware store without the need for a background check.
Under current law, an individual purchasing a suppressor must locate a retailer that is regulated as a NFA Class III dealer, complete a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Form 4 with the model and serial number of the suppressor, and obtain two passport photos and fingerprint cards from a local police department.
The local chief law enforcement official must receive a completed copy of the application. Then the form, photographs and fingerprints must be sent to ATF along with a check to pay the $200 tax. Currently, it takes ATF about nine months to process the paperwork. Then, the customer can obtain the suppressor from the NFA Class III dealer upon an additional background check through FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
Congressman Duncan’s legislation would eliminate those requirements and make suppressors available with the same paperwork, markings, record keeping and background check approval that is required for a firearm.