Why It Matters: Suppressors are federally regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, which is the same law governing machine guns and short barreled rifles. Currently, the process to purchase a suppressor is an overly arduous task, despite wide-spread evidence of the value of suppressors to protect against hearing damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found through studies that, “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”. Suppressors are a modern way to protect the hearing of sportsmen and women across the country.
- Recently, the Hearing Protection Act (H.R. 152) was reintroduced in the House of Representatives by past Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC).
- This legislation will modernize the process to obtain a firearm suppressor by replacing the outdated federal transfer process with an instantaneous NICS background check – the same process required to purchase many firearms.
- Contrary to popular belief, firearm suppressors do not actually silence host firearms. Rather, suppressors are engineered to reduce the sound of a gunshot to a hearing safe level, reduce recoil, and increase accuracy.
Earlier this year, Congressman Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, a former leader of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, reintroduced the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) in the 118th Congress. This legislation seeks to reduce the overly burdensome barriers required to purchase a firearm suppressor. Unfortunately, as a result of regular exposure to gunshots, many sportsmen and women have some level of hearing damage.
In order to purchase a suppressor under current law, an individual must find a licensed dealer, complete the appropriate paperwork along with a one-time $200 tax per suppressor, undergo an extensive FBI background check (often 7 months or more), and then complete a NICS check at the point of purchase. This process makes the purchase of a suppressor unnecessarily difficult to obtain. To address this, the HPA seeks to replace the outdated federal transfer process with an instant the same background check process that is required to purchase many firearms, the NICS check.
Even the most effective suppressors on the smallest calibers reduce the peak sound level of a gunshot to around 110-120 decibel (dB). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), that is the same decibel level as a jackhammer (110 dB). Although there is variation, well-engineered suppressors generally reduce noise levels by about 20-35 dB, roughly the same amount as a high-quality pair of earplugs or earmuffs. Since most hunters do not wear hearing protection in the field because they want to hear their surroundings, suppressors offer a practical and effective alternative type of hearing protection.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to work with Rep. Jeff Duncan to modernize the purchasing process for firearm suppressors to make their use more achievable for sportsmen and women.