CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE — The Tennessee Hearing Protection Act of 2017 officially went into effect on July 1st, after passing through the state legislature this year. No longer banned in the state, Tennesseans can now use firearm suppressors (silencers) on their guns.
Backers of the legislation say its going to help protect the hearing of hunters and sport shooters throughout the state. Opponents, however, say moves at the state level are simply a part of a larger national push to deregulate firearm silencer sales and registration.
Dangerous Step or Positive Direction?
There is no question that guns can produce sound levels that have devastating effects on hearing. Many types of firearms used in recreational sport shooting and hunting produce sound levels well in excess of those considered safe for listening.
Contrary to popular belief and countless Hollywood depictions, the use of silencers on gun barrels does not actually make them silent. A silencer, or suppressor, works by reducing the noise emitted from the pressure wave created by the expanding propellant gas and on average reduces noise by approximately 20-35 dB, but can vary greatly depending upon the type of bullet, length of gun barrel, etc.
“It is made for example the people who are sportsman and stuff to go out and hunt and they can shoot and say maybe, three four places down from a residential area, they’ve got a place that they like to hunt in the field or something, they can shoot firearms and it won’t bother anybody. You won’t have to wear headphones or earplugs and stuff like that with these firearms are discharged.” –Dave Smith, Gun Store Owner, told wdef news
Despite the controversy around it, backers of the Tennessee legislation see it as a positive step. Gun control advocates, however, say its part of a larger agenda at the national level supported by the NRA and similar organizations.
The short film below, produced by SilencerCo (a suppressor manufacturer), profiles one audiologist that offers his support of the hearing protection aspect of gun suppressors:
“If they do succeed in congress at removing, then silencers will be easily accessible and frankly will be subject to the same kind of trafficking that guns are. It will be just as easy for a criminal to get a silencer as they can right now get a gun,” according to Lindsay Nichols, the policy director with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
To date, no major hearing organization has taken a position on the legalization of silencers.