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Position Paper in Favor of Firearm Suppressors to Prevent Hearing Loss

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation
March 2017
Matthew P Branch, MD
Board Certified, American Board of Otolaryngology
Founder/CEO ENTRx, LLC
Attending Otolaryngologist/Head and Neck Surgeon
Waxahachie, Texas
Gerard J. Gianoli, MD, FACS
Board Certified, American Board of Otolaryngology
Fellowship Trained in Otology, Neurotology & Skull Base Surgery
President, Ear and Balance Institute, Covington, Louisiana
Clinical Associate Professor, Tulane University School of Medicine
Dept. of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery & Dept. of Pediatrics
New Orleans, Louisiana
Bradford Ress, MD, FANS
Board Certified, American Board of Otolaryngology
Fellowship Trained in Otology, Neurotology & Skull Base Surgery
Fellow, American Neurotology Society
Boca Raton, Florida
Timothy Wheeler, MD
Board Certified, American Board of Otolaryngology
Fellow, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Immediate Past Director, DRGO
Upland, California
Robert B. Young, MD
Editorial Director, DRGO
Pittsford, New York
Arthur Przebinda, MD
Project Director, DRGO
South Pasadena, California
Executive Summary: Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
Position Paper in Favor of Firearm Suppressors to Prevent Hearing Loss
March 2017
DRGO strongly supports making firearm suppressors readily available as a critical public health step to
prevent hearing loss. Lowering barriers to suppressor ownership will decrease gunshot induced hearing
damage in over 100 million American firearm users, with no material impact on criminal use.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a real public health problem:
The causal relationship between loud noise exposure and irreversible hearing loss has long been
recognized by medicine and the U.S. government.
NIHL is permanent and untreatable. Prevention is the only possible intervention.
Demonstrable need:
NIHL is the most prevalent service-connected disability among Veterans.
Per the CDC, 15% of adults aged 18 and over (or nearly 38 million American) have hearing problems.
Over 100 million Americans who own guns are at risk for gunshot-induced NIHL. Auditory injuries are
sustained by bystanders the same as by shooters.
Nearly all gunshots exceed the noise threshold for instant damage to the hearing cells of the inner ear.
And their explosive blast generates 1,000 times the force on the eardrum than the noise itself.
Benefit of suppressors:
Muzzle blast sound levels from most firearms range from 140 to over 170 decibels. 120 decibels is
considered the maximum safe level for short exposures (the intensity of a car horn 3 feet away). Ear
plugs and/or ear muffs only reduce noise by 20-30 decibels.
Evidence supporting the need for greater use of firearms suppressors comes from the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, the
Centers for Disease Control, as well as academic and military research.
Muzzle-mounted suppressors are vastly superior to ear protectors, providing 50% greater noise reduction.
Only suppressors can make most modern firearms safe for hearing, as noise at gun ranges routinely
reaches 160 decibels.
Conventional ear protectors deafen the wearer to external sound. Suppressors facilitate clear verbal
communication between shooters, increasing safety.
Restricting suppressors is a longstanding obstacle to hearing safety:
Listing suppressors in the 1934 National Firearms Act for no apparent reason made them extremely
expensive and difficult to acquire here. They are readily available to gun owners in much of Europe and
in New Zealand, where firearms are more strictly regulated.
Suppressors do not promote crime:
Suppressed gunfire is still very loud, about 120 decibels. There is no evidence that commercial
suppressors increase the danger of criminal shootings. Single-use suppressors can easily be made at home.
Criminals want easily concealed weapons; suppressors may double the length of handguns. Illegal
suppressor use is extraordinarily rare, and is prosecuted at a rate of only 0.02%.
© 2017 by Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. All rights reserved.


Gun Laws & Legislation

Why I Support Silencers, aka Suppressors, For Firearms

Barbara Baird

I joined the American Suppressor Association last week. The American Suppressor Association (ASA) is a registered non-profit trade association with the mission to “identify and advocate for the common interest of the suppressor industry.” I had attended its first media event in 2014 and have been impressed ever since. I felt the time had come to support the cause for silencers, aka suppressors, with some dollars, as well as words – especially this year, when there might be huge changes in firearms laws because of our recent presidential election.

Currently, there are 42 states where citizens may own suppressors, aided largely by the ASA and its efforts to educate.

The ASA is the voice for the suppressor industry, with a mission to “unite and advocate for the common interests of suppressor manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and consumers.” It’s been around since 2011, and since then, according to its website, “thirty-six pro-suppressor laws or regulations have been enacted. Eighteen states have legalized suppressor hunting, fifteen states have passed ‘Shall Sign’ or ‘Shall Certify’ legislation, and three states have legalized suppressor ownership.” That’s a great track record, but the ASA will not be happy until all 50 states allow suppressors to be legal.

Why Silencers?

Why do we need the ASA in the United States, given that the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution says that the Federal government shall not interfere with citizens keeping and bearing arms? In addition, I ask those who believe the Amendment only applies to some fictional “militia,” why are there government restrictions on something that is merely a firearms accessory, and not a firearm or weapon itself?

At this point, for those asking such questions, I should present a little history of something titled the National Firearms Act (The NFA) of 1934. Per Public Law, in regard to the NFA, “The term ‘firearm’ means a shotgun or rifle having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length, or any other weapon, except a pistol or revolver, from which a shot is discharged by an explosive if such weapon is capable of being concealed on the person, or a machine gun, and includes a muffler or silencer for any firearm whether or not such firearm is included within the foregoing definition.”

The NFA is considered by many gun enthusiasts to be the first effort by our Federal government to control guns, as it levied a tax on items that the government wanted to control without having the Constitutional power to do so. Prospective owners must fill out Federal paperwork, undergo a background check, pay a $200 tax per item, conduct the transfer of the restricted item through a licensed dealer in their state, and wait for approval until they can take possession. This appears in stark contrast to countries in Europe where the governments encourage the use of suppressors on what few firearms they allow their citizens to purchase. After all, suppressors are merely a safety device for hearing protection, not some evil, Hollywood-created gangster’s tool.

In 1939, a federal court heard the pivotal Miller v. United States case and ruled that the NFA violated the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling, because the clever feds decided to regulate the taxation of NFA firearms, which the Supremes say is within the federal authority, rather than the possession of NFA firearms, which would have violated the 2nd Amendment. The NFA has been amended several times, and rarely to the advantage of a gun owner.

Currently the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATFE) cannot keep up with the requests for these transfers. It is woefully behind the curve because it only employs 25 people to work on this process. In fact, the BATFE reported the number of registered silencers in the U.S. exceeded the 900,000 mark in February 2016. According to the Jan 2017 issue of Small Arms Review magazine, from January to August 2016, the BATFE estimates they received over 365,000 NFA applications, and that by the end of 2016 they will have received an additional 1 million applications. These totals include applications for every type of NFA-restricted item mentioned above, but the majority of applications are likely for suppressors.

Why would you want to own a suppressor for shooting or hunting?

  • Some shooters fear the recoil and/or the noise of their firearms. A suppressor can cut down on flinch, or even stop the bad habit of closing your eyes before taking a shot.
  • Another reason to use a suppressor is for hearing protection. How many hunters do you know who actually wear any hearing protection when they’re hunting? As hunters, we want to hear our environment and respond to it.
  • A suppressor also reduces the muzzle rise and recoil, and that means you can get back on target faster if you need to take another shot.
  • Of course, suppressors work to your advantage if you’re hunting or shooting in or near noise-sensitive areas.
  • For law enforcement purposes, where the chemicals involved are toxic and flammable, the use of silencers on pistols as well as rifles is required because it mitigates the flash because it an cause an explosion.

The National Hearing Protection Act

An important step to expand the use of silencers in this country is for people to support the National Hearing Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 3799), which is waiting for the new Congress to convene and pass. This act will remove suppressors from the NFA.

“We look forward to the day when we are no longer taxed to protect our hearing while exercising our Second Amendment rights at the range, and in the field. Together, we can ensure that future generations of sportsmen and women will no longer have to sacrifice their hearing,” states the ASA, at its website.

You can learn more about how to let your legislators know that you are in favor of the Hearing Protection Act by visiting the ASA’s special page at its website.

From a human health perspective, suppressors are important, and frankly, it’s ironic that Europeans can purchase suppressors over the counter, while we have to pay a $200 fee per suppressor and adhere to strict regulations about usage of guns with suppressors.

Find out more about laws in your state regarding suppressor legality and ownership.

Purchasing a Silencer – Your Rights Are Protected

Purchasing a Silencer - 4th Amendment Rights are ProtectedThere are a number of nasty rumors circulating about once the purchase of a silencer is brought into the conversation.  Not the least of which is the ATF now has sudden, unrestricted access to search your home, since you own a silencer.

This rumor is totally UNTRUE!  At no point before, during, or after the silencer purchase do you ever sign a form that forfeits your 4th Amendment right.  The 4th Amendment notes:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the things to be seized.

This quotation is easily verified from the government archives at  In summary, your silencer purchase does not give the ATF, or other law enforcement agencies, the right to enter your home unless accompanied by a warrant, signed by a judge who deems probable cause.  Of course, they can enter your home if you give them permission to do so.

However, there are still individuals who assert that the back side of Form 4 – the one you fill out to verify your eligibility to purchase a silencer with your name, address, and sheriff’s signature – states the ATF has now been given permission to enter and search your home.  The text on the back of Form 4 reads:

ATF Form 4 Language

There are no statements, or phrases, regarding search and seizure.  Your 4th Amendment rights remain intact.  Do not let rumors, or innuendo, keep you from purchasing the hottest firearm accessory on the market.  For more information or to place an order, give us a call today!