hearing protection act

Photo courtesy of the American Suppressor Association

As U.S. & Texas LawShield has previously reported here, the Hearing Protection Act (HR 367) has been incorporated into the Sportsman’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. If HR 367/SHARE becomes law, it could save the hearing of thousands of hunters nationwide, so it’s worth pushing your local congressman to get it enacted.

Suppressors, also known as silencers, are hearing protection for the 21st Century sportsman. Despite common misconceptions, suppressors are not silent. They are simply mufflers for firearms, which function by trapping the expanding gasses at the muzzle and allowing them to slowly cool.

Noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus are two of the most common afflictions for recreational shooters and hunters. Everyone knows that gunfire is loud, but very few people understand the repercussions that shooting can have on their hearing until it’s too late.

In a study from 2011 entitled Noise and Lead Exposures at an Outdoor Firing Range ─ California, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found the following (see page 5):

“The only potentially effective noise control method to reduce students’ or instructors’ noise exposure from gunfire is through the use of noise suppressors that can be attached to the end of the gun barrel. however, some states do not permit civilians to use suppressors on firearms.”

Suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by an average of 20–35 dB, which is roughly the same as earplugs or earmuffs. By decreasing the overall sound signature, suppressors help to preserve the hearing of recreational shooters, hunters, and hunting dogs.

Most hunters do not wear hearing protection in the field because they want to hear their surroundings. The trouble is, exposure to even a single unsuppressed gunshot can, and often does, lead to permanent hearing damage. Suppressors allow hunters to maintain full situational awareness, while still protecting their hearing. The result is a safer hunting experience for the hunter, and for those nearby.

Suppressors have been federally regulated since the passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934. Currently, prospective buyers must live in one of the 42 states where they are legal, must send in an application including fingerprints and passport photos to the ATF, pay a $200 transfer tax, and wait for an indeterminate amount of time for the ATF to process the application.

As of June 2017, wait times are in excess of 10 months, according to the American Suppressor Association.

“The inclusion of the Hearing Protection Act in the sportsmen’s package highlights one way to make hunting and recreational shooting experiences safer and more enjoyable for all,” said Peter J. Hermosa, Executive Director of U.S. & Texas LawShield. “We know for a fact that exposure to noise from recreational firearms is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. We look forward to this legislation becoming a reality.”

The SHARE Act, which has bipartisan support in the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, is a comprehensive package that covers a wide range of hunting, fishing, and outdoor related issues. Included in the legislation is Title XVII, a strengthened version of the Hearing Protection Act.

Since the re-introduction of the Hearing Protection Act by Rep. Duncan and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) in January (H.R. 367, S. 59), the American Suppressor Association (ASA) has met with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to discuss technical amendments to the HPA. As a result, several technical amendments were incorporated into the current draft of the SHARE Act. These include:

Sec. 1702: Removing suppressors from the National Firearms Act, subjecting them to the same instant NICS background check as long guns, and issuing a refundable tax credit to anyone who has purchased a suppressor since the HPA’s original date of introduction.

Sec. 1703: Ensuring that suppressors will remain legal in all 42 states where they are currently legal, after suppressors are removed from the National Firearms Act.

Sec. 1704: Preempting states from levying taxes or registration requirements on suppressors. However, this will not make suppressors legal in any state where state law currently prohibits them.

Sec. 1705: Granting the ATF 365 days to destroy all suppressor related records from the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR).

Sec. 1706: Developing a “keystone part” definition, and requiring that such keystone part is serialized on every suppressor. This will ensure that individual suppressor parts, like pistons and endcaps, will not require serialization.

Sec. 1707: Imposing a 10% Pittman-Robertson excise tax on the manufacture of each new suppressor, a tax that is currently imposed on all Title I firearms.

This legislation will remove suppressors from the requirements of the NFA and instead require purchasers to pass an instant NICS check, the same background check that is used during the sale of long guns. In doing so, law-abiding citizens will remain free to purchase suppressors, while prohibited persons will continue to be barred from purchasing or possessing these accessories. Currently, 42 states allow suppressors for hunting.

No matter what you are hunting, make sure you first educate yourself on the applicable regulations. Take that education one step further by adding Hunter Shield to your U.S. & Texas LawShield membership. Members in Hunter Shield states have access to educational materials, legal updates, and events, all designed to keep them hunting legally. Plus, each member receives the basic legal defense coverage that’s standard with the Hunter Shield program. Make the decision today to become a more educated and responsible gun owner and hunter by adding Hunter Shield to your U.S. LawShield membership. Not a member of U.S. LawShield? Join our family today and add Hunter Shield! —U.S. & Texas LawShield Staff