January 16, 2021
H.R. 155, the Hearing Protection Act, first introduced to Congress in 2015, was reintroduced on January 4, 2021, by Republican Congressman from South Carolina, Jeff Duncan. The bill, if passed into law, would remove suppressors from the National Firearms Act (NFA), removing several restrictions on the purchase and possession of suppressors. A suppressor (sometimes also referred to as a silencer) is a canister with baffles inside that attaches to the muzzle of a firearm, mitigating the sound produced by the firearm when it is discharged. Although they do not make the discharge of a firearm silent as depicted by Hollywood, suppressors can reduce the noise produced by a firearm by up to 30 decibels, depending on various factors, including the type of firearm being used. The National Hearing Conservation Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health all recommend suppressors as a way to mitigate the potential for hearing damage caused by firearm use.
Currently, the NFA imposes a $200 tax on the transfer of a suppressor and requires the suppressor to go through a long registration process with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This process can take months. Moreover, under current law, suppressors are treated the same as ordinary firearms, requiring purchasers to fill out a Form 4473 and undergo a background check prior to being able to complete the sale. The Hearing Protection Act would remove suppressors from the NFA, but leave them subject to the same requirements applicable to the transfer of long guns.
Advocates of the Hearing Protection Act argue that the removal of suppressors from the NFA would provide law-abiding citizens engaged in hunting and shooting sports with easier access to suppressors. This, in turn, would reduce the risk of hearing damage associated with the use of firearms. While the use of a suppressor does not negate the need for hearing protection, using both hearing protection and a suppressor could significantly mitigate the risk of hearing loss. It is important to note, however, that there is no way to entirely eliminate the risk of hearing damage associated with using firearms. Nonetheless, all steps should be taken to reduce these risks, including the use of hearing protection and, where possible, suppressors.
Suppressors are currently legal to possess in 42 states, excluding California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor the Hearing Protection Act as it makes its way through Congress. If you have any questions concerning the Hearing Protection Act or the use and/or legality of suppressors, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.