Well, the doctors have spoken — and their prescription for hearing protection makes perfect sense to me!
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) reported yesterday that a group called “Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership” released a white paper confirming that suppressors (sometimes referred to as silencers or mufflers) are the BEST way to prevent gunfire-related hearing loss. This supports current legislation known as the Hearing Protection Act (HPA) of 2017 (House Bill 367 and Senate Bill 59), which seeks to eliminate the $200 transfer tax on suppressors and remove them from the 1934 National Firearms Act (where they were inexplicably lumped together with sawed-off shotguns and machine guns).
This white paper flies in the face of a recent tweet from Gabby Giffords’ group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, claiming that foam ear plugs are superior hearing protection for hunters and shooters.
I can say from experience that ARS’s claim is a big old pile of horse hooey. While the high pitched hum that dances around in my head 24/7 may not have been entirely caused by firearms discharge, the aforementioned gun blasts certainly played a contributing role — and the foam ear plugs I have worn for years did little to slow my hearing loss or dull the electrical whine that keeps me company all hours of the day and night.
My friend Mike proudly attributes his “20-20” hearing to foam plugs covered by a noise- attenuating set of muffs. This works pretty well for him, but then he’s a flat-headed guy with Air Force hair. For some reason, those muffs never quite seat themselves properly atop my poofy girl hair and apparently lumpy head. And since I am often trying to teach a class, it is just downright frustrating to be shouting instructions, cramming foam tubes (that never stay put) into my ear canal and constantly readjusting the bulky set of ear muffs squatting atop my lumpy head.
A couple months ago, I taught a class of seven at a local indoor range. I wanted to make sure my students got plenty of personal instruction, so I qualified them two-by-two, spending about 45 minutes with each group. Of course we weren’t the only folks shooting on the range. We conducted our class over the din of 9 mils, 40s and more than a few .45s. When I finally came off the range and pulled out my ear plugs, I was shocked to discover that my hearing level still registered as if my ears were completely plugged. I yanked and rubbed and poked my ears to no avail, and I spent nearly 24 hours wondering if I was permanently hearing impaired (and my hearing wasn’t that great to begin with — but this was a new level of lousy!)
Thankfully, my ears finally opened up a bit and returned to semi normal. But I’m pretty certain that afternoon of shooting did some permanent damage, even though I was wearing foam plugs and a pair of standard shooting muffs.
Once I could hear again, I immediately invested in some high-end Howard Leight noise cancelling muffs which are better suited to instruction, anyway — you can hear normal conversation but the crack of gunfire is immediately muffled. And they work like a charm, although my poofy hair and lumpy head still interfere with proper fit.
But the idea of being able to shoot or teach with a suppressor sounds ideal to me. I don’t understand why these tools have gotten such a bad rap or how they ended up on such a restrictive list.
My theory is that the anti-suppressor lobby watched a few too many gangster flicks, where Edward G. Robinson pulls out his roscoe (that’s gangster speak for “gun”), screws on a can (again, gangster talk for silencer), plants two (silently, of course) in the back of some poor stooge’s head (I hope it wasn’t Curly), then strolls away whistling nonchalantly. After all, if you see it in the movies, it must be so…right? Just like those cowboys who fly backward through plate glass windows when Black Bart plugs ’em with a couple 45 long colts? Well that’s a debunking for another day.
The NRA reports that a suppressor’s primary function is to “reduce the muzzle report of the firearm, (thus) protecting the hearing of the firearm’s operator and reducing noise and disturbance to those in nearby vicinities.” Unlike their portrayal in movies and TV, these devices “do not render firearms all but soundless. They do, however, make them safer and quieter to operate.”
And, while the anti-gun lobby usually hypes Europe as a shining bastion of gun-free sanity, the crickets are deafening on this topic, since the UK, Finland, Germany and other European countries have little to no suppressor limitations and, in fact, consider it a courtesy to use one!
But, fear not, all you folks who believe the streets will run red with the blood of innocents if the HPA passes: Suppressor ownership may still be cost-prohibitive for many people. Not only are good suppressors relatively expensive, but if you don’t have a threaded barrel (and most guns don’t) then you either have to have a new barrel made or buy a new gun. Oh, and these handy little devices aren’t exactly tiny, either…which pretty much destroys any hope of concealability.
So, at least for now, I continue my hunt for the perfect plugs and a pair of muffs that sit more like a tiara than a tool chest atop my poofy, lumpy head.