October 24th, 2015

No More NFA for Suppressors? Hearing Protection Act Would Change Everything…

suppressor silencer sound moderator NFA 1934 ATF hearing protection

New legislation by Congressman Matt Salmon* (R-AZ) would make it much easier to purchase a suppressor (aka “silencer” or “sound moderator”) for use with firearms. The new Hearing Protection Act (HPA), H.R. 3799, will remove suppressors from the purview of the National Firearms Act (NFA), replacing the current burdensome federal transfer process with a standard NICS background check. Under the proposed law, acquiring a suppressor would be like purchasing a firearm — you would obtain the suppressor from an FFL dealer after passing a background check. There would still be a background check, but suppressor purchasers would no longer be required to fill out extensive paperwork, be fingerprinted, and pay for a $200.00 tax stamp. The HPA also includes a provision to refund the $200 transfer tax to applicants who purchase a suppressor after October 22, 2015.

Many older hunters and sport shooters suffer from hearing loss. Greater access to suppressors would help prevent that health problem. “Suppressors significantly reduce the chance of hearing loss for anyone who enjoys the shooting sports,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. On average, suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by 20 – 35 decibels (dB), roughly the same sound reduction as earplugs or earmuffs. In addition to hearing protection, suppressors also mitigate noise complaints from those who live near shooting ranges and hunting lands.

Because suppressors safeguard hearing and reduce “noise pollution”, suppressors are widely used in many countries, including the United Kingdom. In most parts of Europe, suppressors are readily available at reasonable cost. According to the NRA-ILA, “Many European nations place no regulations on [suppressor] acquisition or use.” In the “enlightened” European view, sound moderators are considered a “good thing”. Is it time for the USA to change its laws?

It’s Time to Remove Unnecessary Burdens to Suppressor Ownership
Suppressors have been federally regulated since the passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934. The NFA regulates the transfer and possession of certain types of firearms and devices, including suppressors. Currently, prospective buyers must send in a Form 4 application to the ATF, pay a $200 transfer tax per suppressor, undergo the same background check that is required to purchase a machine gun, get a “CLEO Signoff”, and wait months for the ATF to process and approve the paperwork.

The American Suppressor Association (ASA) states that: “[The] Hearing Protection Act will fix the flawed federal treatment of suppressors, making it easier for hunters and sportsmen to protect their hearing in the 41 states where private suppressor ownership is currently legal, and the 37 states where hunting with a suppressor is legal. This legislation will remove suppressors from the onerous 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.”

suppressor moderator silencer hearing protection act HPA

There has been a huge growth in the number of registered suppressors in the USA. From 2014 to 2015, the number of NFA-registered suppressors rose from 571,150 to 792,282. That’s a 39% increase in just one year! It’s remarkable that there are nearly 800,000 suppressors now registered in the USA. These stats are based on data published in the latest Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) Firearms Commerce Report.

*Joining Rep. Matt Salmon as co-sponsors of H.R. 3799, the Hearing Protection Act (HPA), are ten other U.S. 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).