Guns and Gear

Lawmaker Again Pushes Bill To Ease Gun Suppressor Ownership Restrictions

A House bill sponsored by South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan intends to remove the regulation of tax stamps from gun suppressors.

The bill is titled the Hearing Protection Act.

Once dismissed by Congress, the bill may have a chance under a pro-gun rights president, Donald Trump, especially since Trump’s son Donald Jr. met with the CEO of a manufacturer of a suppressor device and tried it out in the field.

The bill would eliminate the $200 transfer tax on firearm silencers. It would also treat any person who acquires or has a firearm silencer as “meeting any registration or licensing requirements of the National Firearms Act with respect to such silencer. Any person who paid a transfer tax on a silencer after October 22, 2015, may receive a refund of such tax,” the legislation states.

Ownership of suppressors is legal in most states, but to be eligible to take one home mandates numerous time consuming requirements like fingerprints, photographs, and notification from the local chief law enforcement officer, as well as a  background check and a $200 tax stamp from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Duncan told the Associated Press. “Don Junior, who is an avid hunter himself, has come out in favor of this particular legislation. And so he gets it. That gives us a little bit of juice within the White House and the executive branch. And hopefully we can tap that energy and have it transfer over to the legislative branch.”

Known as suppressors in firearm circles, gun silencers most often bring to mind the firearm attachments that Hollywood assassins use to quietly dispose of an enemy.

Actual suppressors do not entirely mute guns, but muffle their sound after the trigger is pulled. When a gun is fired, lots of hot, high-pressure gas whizzes down the gun barrel and leaves it, creating the “bang” noise or “muzzle blast.”

“A suppressor contains some of those gasses for a fraction of a second and allows them to expand and cool more gradually by circulating them around internal baffles. This helps to lower the decibel level,” the NRA-ILA explains.

“A bullet moving faster than the speed of sound (supersonic) also creates a mini sonic boom, however, that suppressors will not take away. The Hollywood myth is that silencers or suppressors turn gunshots into this little pffft kind of noise as the firearm’s action works. That’s nonsense.”

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has concluded that a decibel (dB) level more than 140 can cause permanent hearing loss. Suppressors can lower the sound level of a muzzle blast by 20 to 35 decibels.

The NRA-ILA explains, “Silencerco’s research has estimated that a silenced .22 LR rifle gives off about 116 dBs, a silenced 9mm pistol makes about 125 dBs, a jackhammer about 130 dBs and an unsuppressed .223 rifle about 165 dBs. So suppressors can lower the dB level below the detrimental 140 dB level. But OSHA also says that, over time, anything over 85 dBs can damage hearing. The point is, for the most part, even someone firing a suppressed firearm should still wear hearing protection.”

Those who are calling for the federal legalization of suppressors are hunters who say it is important for them to have full awareness of their environment as well as protect the hearing of any canines who may be with them.

“You need your senses when you’re hunting,” Silencer Co Josh Waldron told The Associated Press at this year’s gun industry SHOT Show convention in Las Vegas. “What this is doing is taking the hearing protection that one would wear off your head and putting it on your gun.”

Gun control advocates, though, say the hearing issues are overblown and should not be used as an excuse to pass any legislation that would loosen restrictions on suppressors.

“Absent some kind of cataclysmic hearing-loss crisis by America’s tens of millions of gun owners, this political push should be recognized for what it is: an effort to provide an extremely small benefit to gun owners that willfully ignores what can happen to others once a bullet leaves a gun barrel,” gun control advocate Robert Spitzer wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

Follow Kerry on Twitter