Earlier this year, Rep. Jeff Duncan, along with dozens of co-sponsors, reintroduced H.R.367, titled the “Hearing Protection Act of 2017.”
This short bill seeks to remove firearm silencers from the list of guns and gun-related items which fall under the regulations of the NFA (National Firearms Act of 1934). Weapons listed in the NFA require applying for and receiving a permit from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), a process that takes about nine months.
On the surface, treating silencers as deadly weapons, on par with fully-automatic machineguns, is a bit ridiculous. But silencers have a shady reputation, mostly created by Hollywood. After all, everyone knows that CIA assassins and Mafia hitmen alike all use silencers when stalking their prey … at least, that’s what Hollywood has told us.
In reality, silencers are about as dangerous as a can of beer, maybe even less dangerous. Should this bill pass, silencers would be treated the same as any hunting or sporting rifle, with the same restrictions on purchase. This would mean that any law-abiding citizen could buy them over the counter. This will make silencers much more available to the general public without the red tape the system currently requires.
Why Should You Care?
One could easily wonder why they should even care about this bill, especially if they have never owned a silencer. But there are several advantages for those who want to purchase a silencer for their personally owned firearm.
Due to their rarity, firearm silencers demand a high price, often in the neighborhood of $800. This price reflects the fact that they are basically hand-made, rather than being able to take advantage of the greater efficiency and lowered costs of high-volume manufacturing. Making silencers legal for purchase over the counter will increase their sales, which will gradually bring the prices down.
If you keep a firearm ready for use in home defense, you might seriously want to consider buying a silencer for it, once the bill passes. Shooting a firearm indoors, without hearing protection, can be painful and even cause damage to the ears. Silencers are also helpful for farmers who don’t want to startle the livestock or gun owners who want to do some target practice without scaring the neighbors.
But Do They Really Work?
Let’s clear up a misconception here caused by Hollywood. We’ve all seen James Bond use a silencer to take out a bad guy, with his gun making little more sound than shooting a spit wad through a straw. While that result would be nice, silencers really can’t meet that expectation.
Even though we call them “silencers,” these devices are more correctly labeled “suppressors,” because that’s what they do. They suppress the sound of the shot by trapping the expanding gas, rather than actually silencing the gun. This will reduce the sound of the shot by about 30 decibels, which is a considerable amount. But when you consider that most gunshots are in the 150-decibel range, the 120 decibels that we are left with, while using a silencer, is still pretty loud.
How loud is 120 decibels? It’s in the range of a hammer hitting a nail, a clap of thunder, or an ambulance siren. So, it’s pretty loud. It can still damage your hearing. But it’s still much lower than gunshots typically are.
Herein we find the real purpose of a silencer. It’s not to totally silence the shot, like in the movies, but to make it unrecognizable. A softer gunshot may very well not be recognized as a gunshot and will not be heard from as far away. So, disguising the sound has some distinct advantages, ones that have nothing to do with the nefarious deeds of assassins and other criminals.
By the way, according to the ATF, very few crimes are committed with silencers, regardless of what Hollywood tells us. In a recent report, reviewing ATF policies, they recommended that the requirements for silencer purchase be dropped, as there was no statistical evidence to back up their nefarious reputation. While this report was issued during the Trump presidency, it was created by bureaucrats who were holdovers from the Obama administration.
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