In a recent Crime Report article, titled “Why Silencers Aren’t Golden,” Robin L. Barton argues that silencers (a.k.a. suppressors) should not be made easier to get, as is the intention of the proposed “Hearing Protection Act.”
This bill, introduced last January and supported by the National Rifle Association, would amend the Internal Revenue Code to eliminate the $200 transfer tax on firearm silencers and “treat any person who acquires or possesses a firearm silencer as meeting any registration or licensing requirements of the National Firearms Act with respect to such silencer.” The bill also amends the federal criminal code to preempt state or local laws that tax or regulate firearm silencers.
While the author backs up her argument with some facts and numbers, her argument is flawed and misses the point.
Barton maintains that gun owners already have suitable hearing protection, which provides ample protection from the noise of a firearm being fired. She quotes several sources to explain why suppressors alone will not be sufficient to reduce noise of a firearm being fired to an acceptable level.
The article implies that folks firing a gun are too lazy to want to wear ear protection, and that they’d prefer to put a suppressor on their guns. Barton writes:
Simply put, we shouldn’t make silencers easier to get just because gun owners can’t be bothered to use the hearing protection already available to them
She goes on to write that suppressors are a threat to overall public health and safety, claiming that the sound of a gun being fired is a good alarm for people to let them know there is danger and that they should call the police.
The article goes on to argue that criminals would want to use suppressors to avoid detection. She seems to imply that suppressors are bad because gun owners are lazy, and criminals want to use them for nefarious reasons.
Let me explain why this is wrong.
No one disagrees with the statement that guns are noisy. To give you an idea of just how noisy guns are: the typical 9mm pistol (one of the most common gun calibers in the U.S.) produces approximately 160 decibels of noise. That is even louder than a jet taking off, which produces 140 decibels!
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that when a person is repeatedly exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels or more, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can set in. This means that shooting a firearm can have a big impact on your hearing.
Earplugs and earmuffs do provide shooters with some protection from the excessive noise levels, but not enough. If you wear earplugs and earmuffs, the earplugs might reduce the noise level by 26 decibels and the earmuffs might reduce it by 34 decibels. If you wear earplugs and earmuffs together, it should then reduce the total noise level by 41 decibels.
That still does not reduce the noise level to below 85 decibels, which means more protection is needed to reduce the noise level.
The article seems to imply that suppressors are an alternative to other hearing protection solutions, namely earplugs and earmuffs. But that is not the case. Suppressors should be used in conjunction with earplugs and earmuffs. The principle is simple, the more you are able to reduce noise to your ears, the less impact there will be on your hearing.
So while a suppressor only reduces noise level by about 20 to 35 decibels, if it is used with earplugs and earmuffs, it will help to get the noise level closer to the 85 decibel mark.
I would suggest the following equation: Suppressor + Earplug + Earmuff = Better Hearing Health Protection
The second argument against suppressors is basically that criminals will use it for criminal activities and that loud gunshots act as an alarm.
If we were to ban everything that could be used for criminal activities, shouldn’t we then also ban the Internet? The Internet is after all where a lot of crimes seem to be committed these days!
If a criminal wants to use a suppressor, he or she can just search the Internet to find out how to make one themselves. There are literally thousands of videos on Youtube that will show you how to do it.
Here are some examples:
According to The Washington Free Beacon, records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicate that there are approximately 1.3 million suppressors registered in the U.S..
The ATF confirms in effect that suppressors are rarely used in crime. They have recommended prosecution of suppressor-related crimes 44 times per year over the last decade (that means that only .003 percent of suppressors are used in crimes each year).
In fact, a white paper from the ATF argues that suppressors should be deregulated.
Several other countries allow gun owners to own suppressors. These include many European countries such as Denmark, Finland and Sweden. They certainly do not have a gun crime epidemic as a result of suppressors.
The article concludes its argument against suppressors with this little gem:
In short, I believe that unless you’re a spy, an assassin or the like, there’s no legitimate reason to have a silencer for a gun.
I strongly disagree with that statement. Any hunter or person who fires their firearm on a regular basis has a legitimate reason to have a suppressor on their firearm, which is to protect their hearing health, as well as the hearing health of folks around them.
Suppressors are a valuable aid in reducing folks’ exposure to too loud noises. Making it easier and quicker to obtain is a good thing.
Joe Bradley is the editor of smokingbarrelusa.com, a blog that promotes responsible gun ownership, as well as helps debunk myths about guns and gun owners. He welcomes comments from readers.