In 1934, the Franklin Roosevelt administration passed omnibus gun control legislation, with massive infringements on the Second Amendment. The National Firearms Act was primarily designed to eliminate the private ownership of handguns. As that was too much of a direct assault on the Second Amendment for Congress, they removed handguns from the bill. The remainder of the act passed, creating a bizarre law with unintended consequences.
For obscure and unknown reasons, the Act regulated gun mufflers, also known as silencers, or suppressors. Silencers immediately changed from being a $10 accessory, available over the counter, to an item requiring a federal tax stamp costing $200 or around $3,600 in today’s money.
Actually, it’s worse than that. In 1934, a day laborer would earn $1 a day. The silencer tax was about the yearly pay of a minimum wage worker of the time. It was not a tax. It was a prohibition.
The rest of the world didn’t share America’s self imposed prohibition on gun mufflers. In the rest of the world, silencers were regarded as a useful accessory, something that the neighbors appreciated because it reduced noise pollution.
In Europe, silencers are far less regulated than they are in the United States. In New Zealand, a 12-year-old can walk into a hardware store, pay $20, and walk out with a perfectly serviceable commercial silencer.
Inflation has whittled away at the prohibitionist tax on silencers in the United States. $200 dollars is now 28 hours at minimum wage. People understand the damage done to unprotected ears by close proximity to gunfire. Silencers have become essential safety equipment in many circumstances.
A growing movement has risen up to place silencers in the same regulatory environment as ordinary rifles and shotguns. It removes the prohibitory tax and the burdensome, unnecessary regulations. Legislation has been introduced in Congress by Matt Salmon (R) Arizona.
The Hearing Protection Act keeps the federal regulation that many states refer to when they require federally sanctioned ownership for legal possession of silencers. That regulation becomes the same as for ordinary rifles and shotguns.
When legislators are informed of the bizarre history of U.S. regulation and prohibition of these safety devices, they have no problem passing corrective legislation. Josh Waldron, one of three founders of the American Suppressor Association, says that when legislators become informed, 90 percent of both Democrats and Republicans vote for the reform legislation.
The Hearing Protection Act will pass. It only needs to be presented to Congress and signed by President Trump.