A campaign on Capitol Hill to remove suppressors from National Firearms Act regulations is tracking but still has a long way to go before becoming law.
Guns.com spoke with industry insiders about the Hearing Protection Act on the eve of the 146th National Rifle Association Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Atlanta last week, who argued the measure has a fighting chance.
“The Hearing Protection Act is alive and well in both the House and the Senate,” said Knox Williams, executive director of the American Suppressor Association. “It’s made tremendous strides, but it still has a long way to go.”
The bill was introduced by GOP sponsors U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Rep. John Carter of Texas in January and aims to deregulate suppressors as a safety measure to help promote their use in protecting hearing. Enrolled as H.R. 367, the proposal has 139 co-sponsors including three Democrats but no date for committee hearings.
A companion Senate measure, S.59, has 14 co-sponsors, all Republicans. One of the most recent lawmakers to sign on for the act in the is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, joining fellow Sen. John Cornyn and 22 Lone Star State congressmen of the state’s delegation. The Senate is the crucial battleground for the bill’s passage, requiring 60 votes in a chamber where the GOP can only count 52 members.
Since 1934, the federal government has treated devices designed to muffle or suppress the report of firearms as Title II devices that required registration under the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record and mandated transfers that included a $200 tax stamp. The HPA would repeal this requirement and treat suppressors as firearms – which would allow them to be transferred through regular federal firearms license holders to anyone not prohibited from possessing them after the buyer passes an FBI instant background check.
While consumers, faced with the one-two punch of changes to firearms trusts brought about by 41F last year and the so-called “Trump slump” of decreased political urgency to make purchases, may be on the bench waiting for the HPA to pass in the hopes of getting a good deal on suppressors, some point out this could be flawed thinking.
John Hollister, product manager with Sig Sauer, pointed out that retail prices could rise on suppressors if the HPA passes due to the fact the devices are currently exempt from the same excise taxes imposed on other Title I firearms such as rifles and shotguns. Should suppressors be reclassified, they would trade the $200 NFA tax stamp on the end user for a 10-11 percent tax directly on the manufacturer.
In addition, in a post-HPA boon, raw materials used in the production of silencers could become more expensive as new makers vie for limited stocks.
“Right now, we are making stuff out of Inconel, Celite, cobalt– high-quality aerospace materials,” explained Hollister saying they “buy whole runs of that material” for the manufacture of suppressors built to “last a lifetime.”