Hearing Protection Act [2019 Status Update]: Is It Dead?

You hear that?

Of course you don’t, because that’s the sound of a gun with a silencer on it and silencers make guns completely silent!  They’re super dangerous and should never be in the hands of gun-owners, especially criminals.

Back in the land of reality, however, silencers, also known as suppressors, are actually useful in reducing the noise level of gunshots and helping to preserve the hearing of hunters and gun-enthusiasts everywhere.

suppressed rifle
Be vewy vewy quiet

Luckily for us, some effort has begun in recent years to make suppressors more accessible to the general public, though we’re still a ways off from the days of walking into your local gun store and buying a silencer off the shelf.

First Things First

While “silencers” and suppressors” refer to the same thing in the eyes of the law (specifically our buddies at the ATF), it’s important to point out that silencers are anything but silent.  If your only interaction with silencers is what you’ve seen in movies, then you probably think they make gunshots sound like little laser blasters.

Are bad twist rates why Stormtroopers can't hit anything?
Pew pew pew pew pew!

If that were true, then silencers would be amazing!

Amazingly dangerous, but also amazingly awesome!

Unfortunately, silencers, which we’re going to refer to as “suppressors” from now on to avoid any confusion, can’t reduce or eliminate the noise of a gunshot to anywhere near the level portrayed in movies.

In fact, the guy who invented the suppressor also invented the car muffler at the same time, because both items effectively do the same thing.  A suppressor traps the expanding gas that comes blasting out of the barrel of your firearm (that pushes the bullet along with it), and the extra space allows the gas to dissipate at a slower rate and cool down in the process.

By the time the slower and cooler gas exits the chambers of the suppressor, there is less pressure difference between the gas and the outside air, and the “pop” of the firearm is reduced.

inside a suppressor
The gas exiting the barrel of a gun passes through a suppressor and comes out slower and cooler, reducing the noise of the gunshot

For anyone who is lucky enough to have experienced shooting a firearm with a suppressor attached, you know that the gunshot was definitely quieter.

Quieter, but not silent.

A typical gunshot from a firearm, whether coming from a 9mm round from a handgun like the trusty Glock 17, or from a 5.56mm round from your favorite AR-15, will produce about 160dB of noise.  By comparison, a jackhammer is about 110dB and an ambulance siren is about 120dB.

With a suppressor attached, a gunshot will typically be reduced to about 120dB.  At ambulance-siren level noise, not even James Bond would be able to take out patrolling bad guys without alerting the entire evil lair.

What is important, aside from how cool any gun looks with a suppressor attached, is that the gunshot is noticeably quieter, about equivalent to you wearing earplugs vs none at all.  For those of us who spend a lot of time around firearms, either while hunting, or just spending time shooting at targets downrange, anything we can do to reduce the amount of noise from a gunshot goes a long way.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Of course, when you make the argument that suppressors are to help with our hearing, many people, especially those with no experience with actual suppressors (or even firearms), think you’re just trying to get your hands on suppressors to make your guns into silent killing machines.

Obviously, law-abiding gun-owners, who have already gone through background checks to purchase firearms in the first place, will immediately turn to a life of crime and go on a killing spree if they are given the opportunity to purchase a suppressor.

scroll of suppressors

It’s that type of thinking that initially led to suppressors being put in as part of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA).  Even back in 1934, gun-grabbers were out to make sure as few people had access to firearms as possible, let alone anything they thought would make firearms more deadly.

As part of the NFA, lots of legal hurdles were put in place to make it as annoyingly difficult as possible for individuals to buy suppressors.

Today, while it is not impossible to buy a suppressor, you must:

  • Live in a state where suppressors are legal (sorry CA, NY, or any of the 8 states that hate the 2A);
  • Send in an application to the ATF, including fingerprints and a passport photo;
  • Pay a $200 tax; and
  • Notify your local chief law enforcement officer.

After you’ve done all that, you just need to wait up to 14 months to see if you are approved for your suppressor!

Easy peasy.

Oh, also, your information will be entered into a database of suppressor owners. Just your typical Big Brother stuff.

No big deal.

all of the suppressors
What a great looking family

If you live in a state where suppressors are legal, congratulations on living in the United States of America!  Just follow those steps, shell out the $200, and wait over a year to get your suppressor. If you don’t, know that 42 other states allow for legal ownership of suppressors.  That’s over 80% of the country. Just saying.

And no, the $200 isn’t a typo.  There might be typos somewhere else in this article, but that $200 isn’t one of them.  That amount was set when the NFA was passed back in 1934, with the idea that charging a high tax would discourage people from even bothering to try and buy a suppressor.  In 2019 dollars, the $200 tax would be a little under $3800. With that kind of money, most people would probably spend it on more guns or ammo rather than on buying a single suppressor.

The good news is that the $200 tax has not changed since 1934.  The bad news is that nothing else in the NFA has changed either.  The same hurdles are still in place as they were over 80 years ago.

A New Challenger Has Appeared!

Luckily for us, some of the representatives in elected office are actually trying to do their jobs and, you know, REPRESENT the voters.

Weird concept, I know.

What’s more, these representatives have been making a push in recent years, as early as 2015, in removing some of the obstacles in our way to getting suppressors.

The Hearing Protection Act (HPA) was introduced by a Republican House Representative from Arizona back in 2015.  If passed, the law would have removed suppressors from the NFA, and made the requirements for getting a suppressor the same as those for buying long guns.  Basically, buying a suppressor would just require a background check through the NCIS database to make sure you aren’t a criminal, and you’d be good to go.

For some reason, allowing hunters and firearms owners to protect their haring by placing the same requirements that allow people to own guns onto the purchase and ownership of suppressors wasn’t all that popular with our elected officials, and so the HPA bill never went anywhere.

suppressed shotgun
Suppressed shotgun. No ear pro. AMERICA!

In 2017, there was another push for the HPA, but it was inserted as part of the SHARE Act, which was a pro-2A bill that was aimed at reducing unnecessary burdens on hunters, fishermen, and gun-owners.

The SHARE Act, in addition to increasing federal funding for public shooting ranges and opening more federal lands to hunting, fishing, and shooting, would have removed suppressors from the NFA, eliminated the $200 tax, and required the destruction of the registration records of current suppressor owners.

Even with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the SHARE Act didn’t get anywhere, and so died again.

Now, in 2019, the HPA has been reintroduced as its own bill, with basically the same goals as the 2015 and 2017 versions.  Unfortunately, with a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives, it’s likely going to suffer the same fate as the previous attempts, and die out before it gets anywhere.

Now What?

While you can hold out hope for some miracle that the HPA 2019 will pass the House, make it through the Senate, and eventually to the President’s desk to be signed into law, the best chance gun-owners have at having the HPA pass would be if Republicans were able to regain the House and maintain their majority in the Senate in the 2020 elections.  That means we need to get out and vote.  Even you, guy reading this blog on the toilet.

inside suppressors
Your vote can save future suppressors from a similar fate

But There’s More

If the HPA is re-introduced once again in 2021, as it was in 2015, 2017, and 2019, and manages to pass through Congress and is signed by President Trump, then get ready to line up for your suppressor orders, because everyone and their grandma will be at the local gun store trying to get their hands on one.

Of course, the HPA passing into law doesn’t do much good for the gun-owners living in states where suppressors are illegal.  For those gun-owners, you’ll have to travel to a neighboring state to try out a suppressor and see what you’ve been missing out on.

And who knows, it may be just the kick in the butt you need to convince you to move to a free state.  If not, you can always stay behind enemy lines and try to win back some of your 2A rights at the ballot box with your fellow gun-owners.

For the time being, it’s unlikely any progress will be made in the law, at least until 2021 if the Republicans can regain the majority in the House, and the Senate and White House remain under Republican control.

2a meme

In the meantime, we can all go out and inform our fellow gun-owning friends, and even those who aren’t interested in firearms, on why suppressors aren’t the scary tubes that make guns silent, but are actually just useful tools to help preserve our hearing so we can continue to hear the sweet sounds of our rounds hitting steel downrange.

Now go out and pew pew!

Do you rock a suppressor on your rifle/pistol? What kind? Let us know in the comments! Otherwise check out our Best Suppressor Companies…and even Best Electronic Hearing Protection.

Three Electronic Earmuffs
Three Electronic Earmuffs

12 Leave a Reply

  • Kevin

    Bowers CAC45

    1 month ago
  • Beeps

    Great piece, well, except for the "elect Republicans" rhetoric. That part was just embarrassing. For starters, turn off FOX and assume everything the "president" spews is some form of lie/inaccuracy/conspiracy theory. Next, promote the HPA (or something similar) through a campaign based on education of the general public. Make it fun and informative. Convince one/some of the shady conservative super PACs to finance it. My first NFA item purchase was in 1993 (9mm submachine gun). My next purchase will occur as soon as the Silencer Shop re-stocks the Dead Air Sandman S. It'd be just fabulous to avoid that wait.

    1 month ago
  • Edge

    When asked about silencers on 06/02/19 President Trump said "I don't like them at all". Yeah, it's dead until we elect a pro-2A president.

    1 month ago
  • David

    Having paid a tax for 9 cans now.... i guess its irrelevant to me... lol. Other than i hate tge unconstitutionality of stupid laws like nfa 34

    2 months ago
  • Rich

    I should be getting my 22LR YHM Stinger around August 2019. Applied February. HPA will never pass.

    2 months ago
  • Dave B

    I left CA way back when I was told my trusty Mini-14 was now an assault rifle. Joined the military for 24 years and retired in Montana. Awesome free state to live in! I hope the hearing protection act gets passed some day. I don’t want my kids to experience the same hearing loss that I have.

    2 months ago
  • Hilly1

    Yea, republicans have set gun laws back 20 years. They’re the only ones passing negative legislation & when the controlled all 3 arms of the government they did NOTHING (then as usual proceeded to blame democrats ridiculously).

    2 months ago
  • maurice Lewis

    I'm definitely moving to a free state. I refuse to stay in CA any longer than I have to. I want to experience true freedom

    2 months ago
  • Hard Shell

    Today, with the latest technology available today, it has become easier to guarantee safety of human lives.

    2 months ago
  • Jason

    Authoritarian tendencies are too strong for me to comfortably pull levers blindly for Republicans anymore for this one issue. I'd rather pay an extra 200 and preserve a republic in which predictable gun grabbing will be halted at the SCOTUS (yes, I'm aware it's not hat simple). The 2A only matters if the constitution is upheld and respected. As an aside, I would prefer if Pew Pew stayed out of any overt political discussion. It's a great site without politics and I'd hate to see it go down that road. Just my humble opinion, nobody freak out on me :)

    2 months ago
  • Andy

    I mean this with no malice of heart but if a republican house, senate, and president did nothing when they had plenty of political covers, what are the chances a republican house, senate, and president will do any different in a hypothetical 2020 win? I always vote #2A, but very often that means NOT voting Republican. Hughes Amendment, Mulford Act, Bump-Stock Ban, Kavanaugh denying a writ of certiorari for Kettler v. NFA, Red Flag laws.....wake up. The attack on our rights is bipartisan.

    2 months ago
    • Dlay

      Agreed good sir

      2 months ago
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