Suppressor makers warn of possible shortage if HPA passes

With a new President in the White House and the Hearing Protection Act prepped for takeoff in Congress, those in the suppressor industry urge the best time to buy may be now.

The bill, proposing to deregulate suppressors from National Firearms Act regulation and treat them as regular firearms, was introduced in the House as H.R. 367 earlier this month then quickly followed by a companion bill, S. 59, in the Senate. The House measure has picked up 69 co-sponsors from 29 states — including Texas Democrat Gene Green — since introduction.

James Graham, who has helped run Massachusetts-based Yankee Hill Manufacturing for generations, told at SHOT Show in Las Vegas last week that, if the bill is successful, the current inventory of suppressors up for grabs in the U.S. could sell out “overnight.”

Graham, whose father founded YHM in the 1950s and two sons run the company today, said that the time to get a compliant suppressor is now, pointing out that the HPA includes a provision to refund the $200 transfer tax to applicants who purchased a suppressor after Oct. 22, 2015. “It makes sense if you think about it,” he said.

The number of suppressors in circulation in recent years has skyrocketed, despite NFA hurdles. In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had 285,000 suppressors and silencers enumerated on their National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. By 2016 that figure had more than tripled to over 900,000. Some feel growth would be even greater if suppressors were handled without the additional paperwork and regulation as required by the NFA.

Chris Bollin, chief operating officer of Connecticut-based Alpha Dog Silencers, said estimates of inventory lasting a week or two at best if the HPA passes are about right. As for a timeline on when the legislation will move forward, Bollin read the tea leaves.

“We’ve heard everything from never to the first 90 days,” he said. “I think we’re a year out. With all that’s in the pipeline from the new administration, I think other bills will go first.”

Opposition to the proposal has been sparse. As noted by the Christian Science Monitor, crimes committed with suppressors in recent years are virtually non-existent and national gun control groups to include the Brady Campaign and Everytown have been conspicuously absent from rallying against the Hearing Protection Act, which has consistently been billed by industry groups as a gun safety measure.

However, some hold this to be false. Robert J. Spitzer, who chairs the Political Science Department at the State University of New York at Cortland, argued in a Washington Post op-ed piece published Sunday that increased use of suppressors could actually be a threat to public safety.

“Gunfire — loud, sharp, rude, abrupt — is an important safety feature of any firearm,” wrote Spitzer. “From potential victims who seek to escape a mass shooting to a hiker being alerted to the presence of a hunter in the woods, the sound warns bystanders of potentially lethal danger.”

Meanwhile, petitions directed at the White House were initiated on Trump’s inauguration day to repeal both the 1986 Hughes Amendment, which barred civilian ownership of new machine guns made after that date and the NFA itself.

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