The National Rifle Association has long advocated for the liberalization of laws that restrict the ability of citizens to use sound suppressors on firearms. The American Suppressor Association (ASA) was formed a few years ago to represent the interests of the suppressor industry and consumers. These two great organizations have worked closely with one another to eliminate many restrictions throughout the country. For the health and safety of shooters and others in the vicinity of shooting, policymakers must take much more dramatic steps.
I recently returned from the Sportsman’s All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship (SAAM) training course at FTW Ranch located about two hours east of San Antonio. It’s always a great and enlightening time there. My friends who are relatively new to hunting were amazed to learn all that goes into making them nearly certain that they will get the job done when the one shot of a lifetime presents itself, especially at distance.Firearms are the only noise-producing objects in the country that are required to be as harmfully loud as they can possibly be unless a user is willing to persevere through an arduous government process that does nothing to prevent bad people from doing bad things, as it is purported to do.
With six of us banging away with our rifles throughout the course, there was a lot of muzzle noise. I’ve been around it regularly since I was about three or four years old, and it has certainly taken a toll on my hearing that I now protect as well as possible from harm. Back in the day, we weren’t always so good about hearing protection. It seems like people began to regularly use earplugs and earmuffs while shooting at about the same time regular use of seatbelts in vehicles became a more common thing. I feel really old at the moment.
My standard practice while shooting rifles is to use both earplugs and earmuffs at the same time. The double protection is primarily due to the fact that my cheekweld often causes my muffs to lift from the right side of my head, leaving a gap that allows harmful noise to enter. The plugs are the last line of defense in these instances. In some cases, my entire system fails.
During one of the training scenarios at SAAM, my muffs and plugs that were connected to one another by a tether snagged on a tree branch while working on a move-and-shoot scenario. Both became dislodged and provided me with no real protection during the shots that remained in the string. I didn’t realize it until things had ended, but my tinnitus is clearly worse as a result.
This whole situation makes me angry because I had planned to use a suppressor on my rifle during the class. The reason I could not is because I’ve been waiting for the required federal paperwork to be approved. I’m still waiting, and my ears are still ringing. The federal approval process for acquiring a suppressor pursuant to the National Firearms Act (NFA) takes months, and I believed that I had started it in plenty of time. This process is endangering my health and safety and that of countless others.
Firearms are the only noise-producing objects in the country that are required to be as harmfully loud as they can possibly be unless a user is willing to persevere through an arduous government process that does nothing to prevent bad people from doing bad things, as it is purported to do. Those gun-control activists who oppose dramatic reform to this process have one apparent motivation—to punish law-abiding gun owners for being who they are.
Congress and state legislatures need to get government out of the way when it comes to manufacturing, distributing, owning and using suppressors. Government should never stand as an obstruction to a person simply attempting to secure his or her health and safety.
This is one of the few times we would do well here in America to model ourselves after a number of other countries, most specifically those in Europe. In a number of European countries, suppressors are not regulated any differently than other objects like screwdrivers and earmuffs. They are easily available, and the cultures have almost made suppressor use a matter of proper etiquette. If a similar system were adopted in the U.S., thousands of jobs would be created overnight by skyrocketing demand, and gun owners would finally have a readily available third level of hearing protection before plugs and muffs. The best thing is that suppressors eliminate much of the harmful noise at the source instead of trying to fend off the effects as sound reaches the extraordinarily delicate and sensitive inner ear.Even fair-minded individuals who are firearm prohibitionists should understand that the current state of affairs with regard to suppressor availability is unjust and entirely inappropriate. It’s time for change, and fortunately we have the NRA and ASA guiding the way.
Technological advancements in the suppressor industry over the last decade or so will ensure widespread use due to the fact that the devices are lighter, stronger, smaller and more effective than ever. All of this will protect against hearing loss like mine, or even worse experienced by friends.
One such person is a man who co-founded a very successful and well-known national restaurant chain. He is as law-abiding and peaceable as they come. One day at the range, shooting a .308 Winchester rifle caused him to permanently lose approximately 70 percent of his hearing. This is not meant to scare anyone. It was a series of circumstances that led to the problem, but it did occur in the state of California where, as a mere subject, he was prohibited from even having the opportunity to use a suppressor.
There is little doubt that a suppressor would have eliminated any chance that the damage he did that day would have occurred. I truly believe that the elected officials who prohibit him from having any say in the matter are largely to blame for his physical injuries and emotional harm that goes along with them. To his credit, he goes about life with sincere grace and understanding. As I watch him struggle to hold conversations with me, his other friends and his family, I often think that I would not be as accepting as he is.
More needs to be done sooner, rather than later. Even fair-minded individuals who are firearm prohibitionists should understand that the current state of affairs with regard to suppressor availability is unjust and entirely inappropriate. It’s time for change, and fortunately we have the NRA and ASA guiding the way. Truly dramatic action is long, long overdue. Public health and safety depend on it.