The Hearing Protection Act, or the HPA, has been gathering a lot of buzz lately. With the November election resulting in Republican control of the Senate, the House, and the White House a lot of people are excited for it to pass. If you aren’t savvy on the HPA it is a very simple bill. It aims to deregulate suppressor sales to the point where they are treated as a normal firearm.
Photo Courtesy of the NRA – President Roosevelt’s 1894 carbine and Maxim Silencer
Currently to own or build a suppressor a shooter must file a form 1 or form 4 to the ATF, provide an abundance of information including photographs and fingerprints, as well as pay 200 dollars. The worst part is that this process takes several months to approve, resulting in your suppressor sitting in NFA jail until you receive your tax stamp. The HPA would eliminate these requirements, and only require a standard 4473 and background check to purchase a suppressor.
Bye Bye? Maybe….
The goal of the HPA is to make suppressors accessible to a greater number of people. Suppressors are safety devices used to protect the hearing of the shooter. Silencers are also amazing for reducing noise pollution. More than once we’ve seen legal battles between a gun range and the community regarding the noise created at the range.
I will never not use this.
The United States is a minority in the way we regulate suppressors. In many European countries suppressors are seen as a necessity. The use of suppressors in these nations is seen as polite and are pragmatic purchase to accompany a rifle.
The long ATF wait time and Tax stamp typically turns most people away from suppressors. The HPA would allow new shooters to easily obtain and use suppressors to reduce noise pollution and to protect their hearing. We could go on and on about the benefits of the HPA in specific situations. It all comes down to it being a net win for American Shooters.
I try not to be a cynical pessimist, but I highly doubt the Hearing Protection Act will pass. Unfortunately, the anti-gun animus is strong in the United States, enough to influence this decision. Even with two branches of Government being controlled by the ‘Pro’ gun party of the United States it is unlikely to happen.
Republicans would need 60 votes in the Senate, currently they’d only have 52, and that’s if every Republican voted Yes on the bill. We can’t forget that there are some Republicans who are likely to vote Ney on the bill. That’s our first hang up.
The second is popular support among the people. While many Americans support gun rights, most are casual gun owners. The majority would likely say Yes if asked if they would support the HPA, however, these same people won’t be bothering their legislators about it. With the recent electoral victories some of the gun community has become complacent and are not nearly as vocal as they were a few years ago.
There are also tens of millions of reasons why the HPA won’t pass. Those tens of millions of reasons are dollar bills. In 2016 alone the NFA raised 32 million dollars. This is per the Firearms Commerce in the United States 2016 Annual update. 32 million dollars is not something the Treasury Department is going to just let go of.
The Government, mostly the ATF, is already making changes to reduce the overall support for the HPA. These are good changes, not just for suppressors, but for the entire NFA. It means they are listening and attempting to reform their approach to customer service. I can only speculate on why they are doing this, but I believe it’s due to help counter the HPA.
Courtesy of Dakota Silencer
The biggest step they’ve made is for the ATF to split the NFA branch into its own separate division. The purpose being to improve efficiency. Which translates into reducing the massive wait time. The current aim is to reduce the wait from 270 days to an optimistic 60 days. This would affect all NFA items, not just suppressors.
The ATF is even being vocal about how old the processing system is and how it slows them down. It’s all tied back to the original 1934 legislation, which was done at a time before computers, high speed internet and instant background checks.
The system itself could be overhauled and made more effective with new legislation and guidance. I believe legislation streamlining the processing system is more likely to pass than the HPA.
I want to Be Wrong.
This is one of those situations where I will gladly eat crow. I want to be wrong, and I want to see the HPA passed. However, I’m a realist. I feel on top of the HPA we should be aiming to overhaul the NFA system altogether. As great as repealing the NFA would be, we have to play the long game. If I’ve learned one thing when it comes to the war for gun rights is that it’s won by inches at a time. Getting rid of the NFA is only going to happen brick by brick.