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The Hearing Protection Act has gun-rights organizations jumping for joy

H.R. 367 would remove the additional taxation on silencers and equip average citizens with guns equivalent to those used in stealth raids.

Today, we’re tackling the Hearing Protection Act and its effect on gun regulations nationwide. 

1. On the table today: H.R. 367, aka The Hearing Protection Act

H.R. 3799, also known as the “Hearing Protection Act,” was first introduced to the House in 2015. An additional bill, H.R. 367, was introduced earlier this week under the same name. It’s a creative title for a bill that will de-regulate sales for silencers.

Within the last few weeks, it was sent to the House Judiciary committee for recommendation. H.R. 3799 was introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC).

We are still waiting on the full text on H.R. 367 to be published by the Library of Congress.

What is it about this bill that has gun rights organizations jumping for joy? 

2. What’s the deal with this bill?

This bill, H.R. 367, has 61 co-sponsors in Congress. 60 of them are Republican, and one is a Democrat from Texas (Gene Green, TX29). This is an amendment to the National Firearms Act to de-regulate silencers by including them in the same category as “long guns.”

The National Firearms Act dictates taxation of purchasing or manufacturing weaponry. H.R. 367 would remove the additional taxation on silencers, classifying them as an accessory that would make the gun a long gun and no longer considered an additional firearm to be taxed.

How does de-regulating silencers change the game? 

3. What’s this all mean? 

Silencers, or “suppressors,” are currently heavily taxed, with a $200 fee for those who purchase or manufacture them. This is the same rate that was imposed in 1934, when the NFA was enacted by Congress. This original act was created mostly in response to the gangland violence of the twenties and thirties, like the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Its intention was to limit the sale and manufacturing of military or execution-style weapons, including silencers.

An article by the NRA explains the bills in these terms: “Prevailing regulations requires buyers to send an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), pay a $200 tax, and pass an arduously time consuming ATF background check. Under Salmon’s bill there will be no application, no tax, and buyers would be required to pass the same National Criminal Instant Background Check (NICS) as law-abiding guns owners.”

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Whoa. 

3. What do we make of all this? 

Thumbs down. Totally unnecessary and a symptom of our obsession with militarizing civilian firearms.

Gun manufacturers have been adding a “threading” onto the ends of barrels for years, so gun owners want to have what logically fits on the end of their firearms. Like any hobby, you want all the gizmos and gadgets and all the newest apparel to showcase your level within the field or how much money you have. For example, if you can afford the $200 silencers for your weapons in states where they are legal, you must have a lot of expendable income. It’s about status. It’s also about masculinity for some, which is a whole other ballgame.

Silencers are referred to by the industry as “suppressors,” because unlike Hollywood would have you believe, these accessories do not completely muffle the sound of a shot. They do, however, make quite a difference in muting the sound of a gunshot, which sounds like it would only have positive results for hunters and those shooting, right? They get to help out their eardrums and become less of a nuisance to nearby residential or industrial areas. That’s the way the gun lobby is spinning it.

It's about status. It's also about masculinity for some, which is a whole other ballgame. Click To Tweet

What’s really going on? By taking away the tax on these suppressors, the gun lobby opens up a whole new untapped market of people who will buy specialized silencers for the weapons they’ve already purchased. It’s also a gimmick to get younger people involved in shooting sports – they’re less afraid without the loud bang associated with pulling a trigger. It’s all about sales.

There are those who also argue that ethical hunting requires giving the prey a fair chance. Part of that involves not silently sneaking up on it like an assassin, but strategically timing your shots. Silencers are not a necessary tool for sportsmen. In fact, it seems to be a crutch and a superfluous accessory pitched to us by gun manufacturers and the NRA as preventative care. Please.

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Sounds like some problems that earplugs or headphones normally address, right?

But this probably doesn’t affect me unless I own a handgun, right?

4. Why should you care? 

Let me repeat from the NRA quote above: “no application, no tax.” This means that there would be easy access to these silencers, equipping average citizens with what is normally only used in raids, when stealth is key to the mission.

Consider some of the most horrid mass murders committed in the past few years. With a silencer, innocent people in schools and nightclubs would not have had as much warning to flee an oncoming shooter. Civilians do not need military grade weapons or accessories that are not necessary outside of war or SWAT-style exercises and missions.

There’s also the fear of escalation. If this becomes unregulated, then what about hand grenades and fully automatic machine guns? The safety risk is too great. We need to stand up against this measure to prevent other greater deregulatory policies from sliding through.

For a history of the development of gun silencers, Salon wrote a long piece about why we’re being duped into believing we need them (or even want them).

Gulp. Alright, I don’t want this going down.

5. So, what can you do?  

As always, call your representatives. Tell them how you feel, even if they are sponsors of this bill (mine are!). Call them and leave a message. They have to take note of how many people contact their offices about a particular matter. Don’t let them continue under the assumption that most of their constituents prefer this kind of militarization of their firearms. The NRA has a lot of sway and power, yes, but so do you. Act on it! They are obliged to listen to you.

Find your representative here and tell them you care!

A silencer attached to the end of a gun
Perry Hodgkins Jones

Perry Hodgkins Jones

Editorial Fellow Perry Hodgkins Jones is a published writer, environmental advocate, and non-profit worker with a Master's in Theology and the Environment from Sewanee.

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