Hearing Protection Act: How It Would Help Hunters

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

11 comments on “Hearing Protection Act: How It Would Help Hunters

  • Be careful what you ask for. I can see down the road the “antis” putting forth the notion that if this is a safety issue then ALL firearms must have suppressors. Imagine being mandated to put a suppressor on EVERY firearm you own or you are disallowed from owning it.

  • Brian Rickert says:

    I really hope this passes. I waited just 2 weeks shy of a year for my paperwork to be processed by the ATF. It also makes it a pain to carry your weapon around with the suppressor attached. I have to keep a copy of all my paperwork with me.

    • Texas and U.S. Law Shield Admin says:

      No visible movement. Be sure to call your representative and ask them to push this.

      • If it passes it will open the door for the government to mandate that you have suppressors on ALL your firearms; just like they have mandated that you have health care! After all, it is about your personal safety, and who knows better to look after that than the infernal GOVERNMENT??!!?

  • Then what is the issue and why hasn’t Congress done their job to get this moved through and on to the President’s desk where it will be undoubtedly signed into law. This is such a no-brainer – come on Congress – do something for a change!

  • I honestly believe that the Hearing protection act would be very beneficial to hunters my husband and I both hunt and the firing of the rifles is just deafening at times I really hope that this does get passed since we do not wear hearing muffs while in the field.

    • I hunt in the US and in Africa. I wear a pair of ear plugs on a string around my neck. In the time it takes to assess whether I want to shoot an animal I almost always have time to put the plugs in my ears. Ear plugs = $6. Suppressor = $ ????? I avoid the expensive cost of a suppressor please the additional unnecessary weight and negative impact on the handling characteristics of my rifle. How does one put a suppressor on a double rifle?

  • I am a Army veteran and already have hearing loss for my military service. I love hunting and sport shooting and I think suppressors should have the same requirement as buying a gun and should be legal in all states. I would like to keep what hearing I still have.

  • As a hunter and recreational shooter I am suffering from NIHL. The use of suppressors by responsible gun owners will help protect shooters from this syndrome and I strongly recommend supporting the Hearing Protection Act (HR 367).

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