Hearing Protection Act: Legislation introduced to loosen gun suppressor laws in North Carolina

State - Regional

(FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – When many think of silencers or suppressors for guns, they usually think of something out of a movie or video game–a limited sound that many may not be able to hear.

In reality, even the quietest of silencers still allow gunshots to be heard from large distances.

“It doesn’t make the gun quieter so that it’d be undetectable,” said former industry sales representative John Van Swearingen. “It brings the sound of the gun below the injury threshold.”

As Van Swearingen described it, silencers themselves reduce the decibel level from around 170db to around 130db — still loud, but not enough to cause hearing loss.

Silencers and suppressors, however, have been a growing item for those that can afford them. But the process to get one has been the same for decades.

“You fill out your tax stamp papers, you have to have a passport photo, and fingerprint cards,” said Larry Hyatt of Hyatt Guns.

Hyatt says the process, from start to finish, takes several months.

“We call it the baby wait,” said Hyatt. “You could have a baby in the same amount of time that it takes to get your suppressor.”

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina has introduced legislation to shorten that period.

Tillis is calling that legislation the “Hearing Protection Act”, and would allow suppressors and silencers for guns to be more widely available for firearms.

Tillis said the main reason for the legislation is to protect the hearing of hunters and those who shoot for sport, because of the high decibel levels of firearms.

Gun control advocates, though, say what Tillis wants is less about health.

“Law enforcement sent letters opposing this legislation in the past,” said Becky Ceartas of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, who argued that the current laws work.

“Law-abiding citizens have no problem with background checks.  It’s the backbone of public safety.”

However, Van Swearingen noted legitimate evidence for possible change.

“Most of the people I know that are on VA benefits are on those benefits for hearing loss.  That is a thing that hunters have traditionally suffered,” he said.

A similar piece of legislation was put forth in Congress four years ago, but largely stalled in Congress.

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