Legal Issues

NRA: Gun Control Advocates Want You to Lose Your Hearing. Why?

Man's face with out of order sign on his ear

When U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, recently introduced a measure in the U.S. Senate to make it easier for hunters and shooters to purchase suppressors to protect their hearing—and a similar measure was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives—those who understand the topic were appreciative of the effort.

By Mark Chesnut In fact, Chris W. Cox, NRA-ILA executive director, said of S 59: “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.”

Not surprisingly, those who hate any legislation that might be helpful to America’s law-abiding gun owners immediately went on the attack. Last week, a Los Angeles Times columnist took a page from The Washington Post to launch his own little campaign of FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt—demonizing the devices. Not surprisingly, those who hate any legislation that might be helpful to America’s law-abiding gun owners immediately went on the attack.

Although he didn’t stoop quite to the stupidity of the Washington Post reporter—who went so far as to refer to the .22 Long Rifle rimfire as a “high-powered rifle”—he did his best to link suppressors to everything from “machine guns and other instruments of mobster violence” to “hand grenades and land mines.” He pointed out that eight states ban ownership of suppressors—without mentioning that 42 states allow them—and he shrieked that legalizing suppressors “increases the dangers of firearm violence.” Man's face with out of order sign on his ear Of course, that’s hogwash. But that didn’t stop Shannon Watts, head of Bloomberg’s Demanding Moms, from putting in her two cents with a tweet that was characterized by Twitchy as the dumbest Tweet of all time.

“@NRA pushing dangerous silencer agenda: ‘If you can’t hear the gun shots, how do you know a shooter is coming?’” Watts ignorantly tweeted.

As we all know, suppressors, called “silencers” by some, don’t make guns “silent.” And it is very likely Watts knows that, too. It just doesn’t fit into her normal strategy of misleading people who don’t understand guns and gun matters, and who want to believe that the head of a “Moms” group wouldn’t blatantly lie to them.

To help Watts better understand suppressors and the pending legislation—and possibly assist our friends, acquaintances and family members who might not have the knowledge to adequately discuss this issue—let’s take a quick look at suppressors and the current proposal.

In a nutshell, suppressors are simply mufflers for firearms, which function by trapping the expanding gasses at the muzzle, allowing them to slowly cool in a controlled environment. According to the American Suppressor Association, on average, suppressors reduce the noise of a gunshot by 20 to 35 decibels (dB), roughly the same sound reduction as earplugs or earmuffs. In addition to providing hearing protection, suppressors also mitigate noise complaints from those who live near shooting ranges and hunting lands.

Given those simple facts, you would think it would be easy to buy a suppressor. And you’d be wrong.

Private ownership of suppressors is currently legal in 42 states, and they are legal for hunting in 40 states. Unfortunately, these hearing-saving devices have been grossly overregulated by the federal government since passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934.

… these hearing-saving devices have been grossly overregulated by the federal government since passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934.

Currently, prospective buyers must send in an application to the ATF, pay a $200 transfer tax per suppressor, undergo the same background check process that is required to purchase a machine gun, and wait literally months for the ATF to process and approve the paperwork.

NRA-ILA logo The legislation in Congress would remove suppressors from the restrictive NFA requirements, and instead require purchasers to pass a NICS check, the same type of background check that is used during the sale of long guns. In doing so, law-abiding citizens would be free to purchase suppressors, while prohibited persons would continue to be barred from purchasing or possessing these accessories.

So the long and short of it is that suppressors aren’t silent—they simply reduce the level of noise to the point at which hunters and shooters won’t have to sustain further hearing loss when enjoying their favorite pastimes. And the legislation would simply cut out some of the government red tape currently required to purchase suppressors.

And while anti-gunners claim suppressors are sought by criminals and will be increasingly used by them, that simply isn’t true. First, criminals wouldn’t be able to legally purchase suppressors if these measures are passed. In truth, criminals prefer small, powerful firearms, primarily handguns, that they can easily conceal under their clothing. Suppressors roughly double the overall length of handguns—making them much more difficult to conceal—and add considerable length to long guns, which are rarely used in crimes anyway.

Fact is, Watts and other anti-gun advocates either don’t care about the truth or they have simply been watching too much TV, where suppressed firearms oftentimes appear to actually be “silent.” That doesn’t make their lies about these devices true.

In the end, NRA-ILA’s Cox said it best: “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.”

Should the over regulation of suppressors be eliminated? Do you own a suppressor? How has it changed your shooting or hunting? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (20)


  2. To the long shot guys. I shoot my game so far away that I have to salt the bullets so the meat doesn’t spoil before I get there. LOL I also use a suppressor .

  3. .The Boy Scouts have a rifle shooting merit badge where scouts must first demonstrate full knowledge of firearm safety. Then, and only then, do they access target 22 caliber rifles and must shoot 5 shots into a 25 cent piece diameter at 50 yards with only iron sights, no optics to qualify and earn the merit badge. Suppressors would make it easier to teach in addition to the mandatory hearing and eye protection.
    It is ridiculous that while I have a Class III tax stamp for a suppressor, legally I cannot let anyone else shoot a suppressor equipped weapon.
    BTW – in the entire history of the Boy Scouts, there has NEVER been any accidental shooting incident at any range which is staffed by adult volunteers who are NRA range safety officers and pass BSA internal testing programs. Promote hearing protection and respectfully write your congressional House and Seanate representatives urging them to pass this bill.
    There is nothing more satisfying as a scout master or assistant scoutmaster than seeing a young scout attain this and other merit badges.

    1. “legally I cannot let anyone else shoot a suppressor equipped weapon.”

      This is not true. My understanding is that suppressors are treated like class III weapons in this respect, you can let someone else shoot it if you are in the vicinity. You can’t loan it out to your friend, but your friend can use it with you.

  4. I bought my first suppressor in 2008 & now own 4. I’d have 5 if I had the $800 worth of tax back…..
    When shooting suppressed, the advantage goes to the shooter only in the decibels at the shooters ear. There is no advantage over a target, legal or illegal. Supersonic loads are reduced to the equivalent of an unsuppressed rimfire at best. Subsonic loads can be very quiet but drastically reduce its effectiveness on a target. The one part of the equation they have no effect or control over is the decibel level created by the projectile making contact with the target. This is usually equal to, or greater in the case of subsonic, to what is heard by the shooter made by the firearm discharge. No real criminal advantage whatsoever

  5. The point I haven’t seen made yet is that fundamentally a suppressor isn’t that sophisticated a device. Meaning if criminals wanted them, you can make one with a water bottle and duct tape. Not a great one, but one that does substantially reduce the report.

    If you have some machining skills a couple of pieces of pipe a drill, carefully selected washers and some steel wool you can make something relatively effective.

    In fact some legal suppressor are exactly that. Now the best of them are much quieter, but still improvised stuff is possible.

    As with virtually all such rules, silencers being an ATF item was started based on a lie and is being defended by anti 2A people with lies.

  6. I do not particularly care about the $200 tax. I do care greatly about the waiting period, and it is why I have not bought one yet. I look forward to the day that I can.

    1. Aren’t you special? This might be news to you, but we’re not all overpaid doctors. $200 is a pretty big deal to a lot of people that want to shoot a suppressed firearm.

    2. That doesn’t even make sense…….. You’re still waiting!! Possibly longer than you would now.
      What does the MD really stand for.:-) :-). Did you actually spend time thinking this through??

  7. I was hunting this season with a suppressed .308. was scanning the radio channels and heard some hunters nearby. Their camp was nearly half a mile and a father was communicating with his teenage sun. This was the last da of the hunt and time to hike back to the truck. Having not shot anything all week, I needed to pull the trigger once so I shot at a rock 400 miles away. I took two shots. I then heard the father of teenager say over the radio “Dawson was that you” Nearly a half mile away through trees, echoeing off the ridges, the guy could hear the suppressed shots. Suppressors are NOT quiet…but I was not wearing ear protection and it was NICE.

    1. I also like the 400 mile shots! what optic do you use? I like to log in to the Hubble telescope for my 400-800 mile shots! do you handload? I prefer to do mine myself also, I get the best results from using Ammonium Perchlorate (same as used to launch the Space Shuttle) it gives my rounds the lil extra lift. Sighting in and target practice isn’t to bad but during deer hunting season recovering the deer can be a pain in the butt, it helps to have family in the next county helping search for blood trails LOL

    2. LOL…Wups.. I meant 400 Yards.. Sorry. But you do have me thinking about mounting the hubble to my gun now. hehe.

  8. I currently own two firearms in .22 that have threaded barrels that would allow the attachment of a suppressor. I don’t understand all the negative talk about the “criminal” element getting their hands on these devices. They simply wouldn’t!
    I will purchase a suppressor when the government eliminates the long wait for approval and the $200 fee that makes them that much more expensive.
    Concealed carry permit holder… Joni-Nebraska

  9. I own a suppressor for my .22 and have had it since 2009, I also live in Washington State where it is legal to own them and use them. For a .22 the sound that is suppressed is virtually all (depending on the type of firearm you are using) I have 2 rifles that I can use this on, one is a bolt action .22 and one is a semi-auto .22 both work great while suppressed. With The bolt action all you hear is the is the firing pin hit the rim and a slight hiss of the bullet. Mind you I mostly use subsonic ammo, with standard or high velocity ammo you might hear the crack of the sound barrier breaking. With the semi-auto again all you hear is the both action going back and forth and the hiss of the bullet. .22 cal bullets are not that loud to begin with and subsonic ammo is even quieter so if you do not have a suppressor you can still shoot quiet enough to shoot in your back yard without your neighbor even knowing. I have recently started the process of getting another suppressor for my DPMS ORACLE 5.56/.223 and I’m not really looking forward to the longer the needed wait so this law would be a welcome change.

    1. Believe it or not, I have a suppressed DPMS Oracle 223 it is great fun to shoot. I’ve got a 300 Blackout upper for it as well, needless to say that is even more fun to shoot suppressed. Bottom line, shooting suppressed is very enjoyable. If the HPA gets passed, I’m sure there’ll be a massive suppressor shortage. But I’ll also drive suppressor prices way down, after supply meets demand.

  10. First of all, let me say that I agree completely with legalizing suppressors and to make the federal government to stop violating the Second Amendment by taxing them.
    That said the part of this article that says that suppressors only limit ‘some’ of the noise of a shot is blatantly incorrect. It depends on the cartridge and the length of the barrel and the length of the suppressor. Case in point:; While in the military, I was a Foreign weapons Instructor. The English Sten, in one of its configurations has a built in suppressor. This weapon is 9mm. When fired, the suppressor suppresses, (forgive the pun), ALL of the noise of the firing and the only noise heard is the clacking noise of the bolt moving back and forth.

    1. Years ago, Paladin Press produced a book on ‘silencers’. One of the items depicted was a unit for a 9mm pistol. A supersonic cartridge. There were three or four thick rubber baffles with an X cut in the center. They not only slowed down the exiting gasses, they also slowed the bullet down to subsonic. The article admitted that the baffles had to be replaced when they started to wear out.
      The book was clearly labeled in several places – “For Information Only”. In a similar fashion, the book on how to make a new trigger group for a full-auto 10/22 had a the same warning. The information has been available for years. If there was a criminal market for these items, someone would be making them, and the police would frequently find them being used for criminal purposes. They are not.

  11. there is absolutely no reason a legal gun owner should be subject to the tax stamp fee and lengthy waiting period to purchase a supressor to protect their hearing!

    1. Maybe, maybe not. Any projectile that breaks the sound barrier will make noise. At sea level that’s approximately 1100 get per second.

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