Republicans in Congress are tackling a new gun-related issue: how firearm suppressors should be regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Currently, anyone who wants to purchase a sound suppressor must undergo the NFA’s application process, pay a $200 stamp fee and wait a long period of time.
Under the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (HPA), sound suppressors would be removed from the NFA and treated as a regular firearm under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA).
If passed, gun owners would still be required to undergo a background check, but they would no longer be required to pay the fee or wait months to purchase the suppressor. They would undergo a background check through the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) and, if approved, would be able to purchase and obtain their suppressor immediately. Should the legislation pass, those who purchased their suppressor after October 22, 2015, the day the legislation was introduced, would receive a refund of the $200.
HPA was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and John Carter (R-TX). Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
According to Representative Jeff Duncan, sound suppressors can and will protect a gun owner’s hearing:
“I’ve been shooting since I was a young child — beginning with plinking with a .22 rifle and dove hunting with my Dad. My hearing has been damaged because of gun noise,” South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan said Monday after introducing the bill in the House with Texas Rep. John Carter, a fellow Republican.
“Had I had access to a suppressor, it may have protected me, as well as millions of other Americans, from this sort of hearing loss. This is a health issue,” Duncan continued.
Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Associations Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), released the following statement in support of HPA:
The Hearing Protection Act would make it easier for sportsmen to purchase the tools necessary to protect their hearing. Many gun owners and sportsmen suffer severe hearing loss, and yet sound suppressors – a tool that can reduce such loss – is overly regulated and taxed. Gun owners and sportsmen should be able to enjoy their outdoor heritage with the tools necessary to do so safely. This bill makes it easier for them to do that.
Of course, gun control advocates are adamantly opposed to the legislation:
“There’s no evidence of a public health issue associated with hearing loss from gunfire,” Kristin Brown, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told The Los Angeles Times. “There is evidence of a public health crisis from gun violence, and we think that’s where legislative efforts should be directed.”