On Thursday, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 3799, the Hearing Protection Act (HPA). Joining him were 10 co-sponsors, including Representatives Frank Guinta (R-NH), John Carter (R-TX), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Chris Collins (R-NY), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Mia Love (R-UT), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Chris Stewart (R-UT). The HPA would remove sound suppressors from regulation under the National Firearms Act (NFA), leaving them to be treated as ordinary firearms subject to the usual NICS check and Form 4473 for dealer sales. Their primary function is to reduce the muzzle report of the firearm to which they are attached, protecting the hearing of the firearm’s operator and reducing noise and disturbance to those in nearby vicinities.
Currently, suppressors (misleadingly referred to as “silencers” in federal law) are subject to the NFA’s cumbersome and lengthy application, “CLEO sign-off,” and $200 taxation provisions. This is so, even though the devices themselves are completely harmless. Their primary function is to reduce the muzzle report of the firearm to which they are attached, protecting the hearing of the firearm’s operator and reducing noise and disturbance to those in nearby vicinities. Unlike their portrayal in popular movies and television shows, the devices do not render firearms all but soundless. They do, however, make them safer and quieter to operate, reducing the sound that reaches the shooter by about the same degree as a pair of earplugs or earmuffs.
Although they have been subject to heightened regulation under federal law since 1934, suppressors have become increasingly popular in recent years, as more and more hunters and firearm enthusiasts have discovered their benefits. Suppressors may be legally obtained in 41 states, and they are lawful for hunting in 37. Ironically, regulation of suppressors is one area where American gun owners are at a relative disadvantage to their counterparts in other countries. Many European nations, for example, place no regulations on their acquisition or use. Here in the U.S., it is inconsistent, to say the least, that while mufflers are legally required or commonly included on a various noise-producing tools – including cars, lawn mowers, and chainsaws – the law discourages their use on firearms.
Suppressors may be legally obtained in 41 states, and they are lawful for hunting in 37. Ironically, regulation of suppressors is one area where American gun owners are at a relative disadvantage to their counterparts in other countries. Many European nations, for example, place no regulations on their acquisition or use.
Suppressors are also considered “firearms” under the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, and they would continue to be so under the HPA. This means that their commercial manufacturers and dealers would have to be licensed, background checks and record-keeping requirements would continue apply to retail sales, and people with serious criminal histories or prior mental health commitments or adjudications still could not possess them. They would, however, be more readily available to law-abiding gun owners who could benefit from their use.
To ensure the pendency of the HPA does not discourage people from acting on their rights to acquire suppressors in the meantime, the Act would also allow those who acquire a suppressor after October 22, 2015, but before the Act’s effective date, to obtain a refund of the NFA’s $200 tax.
The NRA heartily supports the HPA and thanks Rep. Salmon and his cosponsors for their leadership in this important effort. In addition, as a leading voice in the industry, the American Suppressor Association has provided valuable insight to the creation of the Hearing Protection Act.
We urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to support the Hearing Protection Act. “Suppressors benefit all involved in the hunting and shooting sports,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox. “It’s time to bring the law in line with modern technology.”