The Hearing Protection Act (HPA) is one of those things lingering in the back of every firearm owners mind. While all of us would obviously love to see it pass you will not see any of us holding our breath. That sentiment may soon change as some very positive movement was recently made on the HPA.
The American Suppressor Association (ASA) has been championing this bill its entire time of existence. In fact, they are continually at the forefront of all positive movement in anything silencer-rights related. They recently broke the news about progress being made with the HPA:
The House Committee on Natural Resources has scheduled a hearing for the morning of June 14, in which the Federal Lands Subcommittee will hear a discussion draft of the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. The SHARE Act, which is being championed in a bipartisan manner by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chairs Representative Jeff Duncan (R-SC), and Representative Gene Green (D-TX), is a comprehensive package that covers a wide range of hunting, fishing, and outdoor related issues. Included in the legislation is Title XVII, a strengthened version of the Hearing Protection Act.
Since the re-introduction of the Hearing Protection Act by Rep. Duncan and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) in January (H.R. 367, S. 59) the American Suppressor Association (ASA) has met with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on multiple occasions to discuss technical amendments to the language. As a result, we were able to create several technical amendments that were incorporated into the current draft of the SHARE Act. These include:
- Sec. 1702: Removing suppressors from the National Firearms Act, subjecting them to the same instant NICS background check as long guns, and issuing a refundable tax credit to anyone who has purchased a suppressor since the HPA’s original date of introduction
- Sec. 1703: Ensuring that suppressors will remain legal in all 42 states where they are currently legal, after suppressors are removed from the National Firearms Act
- Sec. 1704: Preempting states from levying taxes or registration requirements on suppressors. However, this will not make suppressors legal in any state where state law currently prohibits them.
- Sec. 1705: Granting the ATF 365 days to destroy all suppressor related records from the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR)
- Sec. 1706: Developing a “keystone part” definition, and requiring that such keystone part is serialized on every suppressor. This will ensure that individual suppressor parts, like pistons and endcaps, will not require serialization.
- Sec. 1707: Imposing a 10% Pittman-Robertson excise tax on the manufacture of each new suppressor, a tax that is currently imposed on all Title I firearms
‘The inclusion of the Hearing Protection Act in the sportsmen’s package highlights the commitment of the Sportsmen’s Caucus to make the hunting and recreational shooting experiences safer and more enjoyable for all,’ said Knox Williams, President and Executive Director of the American Suppressor Association. ‘We know for a fact that exposure to noise from recreational firearms is one of the leading causes of hearing loss, which is why the CDC, NIOSH, and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) have all recommended using suppressors as a tool to mitigate the danger. We look forward to working with the Sportsmen’s Caucus to make this legislation a reality.’
Suppressors have been federally regulated since the passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934. Currently, prospective buyers must live in one of the 42 states where they are legal, must send in an application including fingerprints and passport photos to the ATF, pay a $200 transfer tax, and wait for an indeterminate amount of time for the ATF to process the application. As of June, 2017, wait times are in excess of 10 months. In stark contrast, many countries in Europe place no regulations on their purchase, possession, or use. This legislation will remove suppressors from the onerous requirements of the NFA, and instead require purchasers to pass an instant NICS check, the same background check that is used during the sale of long guns. In doing so, law-abiding citizens will remain free to purchase suppressors, while prohibited persons will continue to be barred from purchasing or possessing these accessories.
The ASA did a great job of giving an overview of the progress, but I will simplify it even further.
The HPA is now attached to a bill that has more likelihood of passing with wording that makes even the ATF happy (because the ASA jointly worded it with the ATF). This will not legalize silencers nation-wide, but any state where they are currently legal, it will treat them like a traditional firearm. Do a simply 4473 NICS background check, pass, and take it home the same day.
The HPA has quietly had a lot of support up until this point from our legislators and the general public. The ASA cited that:
This all bodes well for silencer advocates and firearm enthusiasts included. An advancement in silencer rights is, indeed, an advancement in rights for all those who love firearms.