HHTM Staff: Last week’s post was supposed to be the absolute final post in this multi-month Noise series. After getting the low-down on electronic earplugs, a new angle arose in the form of legislation to outfit firearms with noise suppressors (aka “silencers”). The rationale for suppressors was ably supported by Knox Williams (President, American Silencer Assoc) last week, but we remained skeptical — and apparently not fully informed — when we concluded:
Back to the original legislative rationale that suppressors will make “shooting firearms safer, more neighbor friendly and more enjoyable.” Somewhat safer and more enjoyable for the shooter, yes. But the neighbor friendly part doesn’t seem supported by the statements above, unless our neighbor is shooting off the front porch and the noise is bothering us. Are people allowed to do that? Personally–and we think Harry Whittington might agree–we would feel more neighborly and enjoy life more if we could hear people shooting at us. As Harry said, “accidents happen.”
Mr. Williams clarified a few questions and graciously agreed to returned this week for (possibly the last) word on this topic. We appreciate his use of rational argument and education to influence others to the views of his organization.
The Facts, Ma’am, Just the Facts
Where Are You Shooting and How Many Shots Are You Taking?
Besides the neighborly issue, we wondered why suppressors were of use since shooters were still likely to need additional protection in the form of earplugs. Mr. Williams responded:
Most public shooting ranges require hearing protection for all shooters at all times. Because of this, most shooters wear hearing protection when they are at the range.
On the other hand, most hunters do not because they have a false sense of security due to the limited volume of fire. With suppressors, the limited shots allow for their use as a primary hearing protection device.
However, as with any noise over 85 dB, exposure time is a factor. Hence, if you have multiple shooters on the line and are exposed to a high volume of gunfire, standard hearing protection devices should be worn.
OK, Knox, we understand the situations better now. It’s good to know that most public shooting ranges require ear protection (though not in Tacoma — see picture below). The false sense of security you mention also makes sense and we hope hunters will take all necessary precautions to protect their hearing and the safety of others. Which bring us to that neighbor friendly issue.
Who’s Your Neighbor?
Our visions of neighbors shooting off their front porches isn’t that far off, what with the urban encroachment described by Mr. Williams:
In regards to the “neighbor friendly” aspect, you would be surprised at how much better outdoor shooting ranges sound when suppressors are used. Urban encroachment is a major issue for many shooting ranges across the country, and suppressors help them tremendously.
Gunshots can still be heard, but the concussive effect is diminished. Ask anyone who has stood next to someone with a muzzle brake and they will tell you how much of a difference it makes.
Living in the so-called wide open spaces of the Southwest, we hadn’t considered the annoyance factor of living next to a firing range. It could rank right up there with living under the flight path of the local airport. We understand the value of suppressors in these situations now; also the importance of checking for flood plains and noise paths prior to purchasing a house.
Further checking reveals that encroachment and close proximity in some parts are the country are prompting legislation to protect shooting ranges from the possible “noise and nuisance complaints and lawsuits.“
An Offer We Have to Refuse
Mr. Williams assured us that “no one is born a good shot. It takes a good instructor and practice.” He further offered a first hand demonstration of shooting with suppressors for us, noting that “suppressors are one of those things that you can learn about on paper, but that make a whole lot more sense once you’re able to use them.” We are sure he is right, but we have declined at this time.
Good Neighbors Make Good Fences
We remain concerned about walking around in the woods while hunters with suppressors are shooting. Do they know others are present? Do we know they’re there? Which of us is supposed to be there and which is not?
This is akin to neighborhood golf courses, where you’re not supposed to walk inside the fence at certain hours of the day while golf balls are flying around; or like buoy barriers to separate swimmers from surfers by pre-arranged schedules.
At the end of the day, it seems that our general safety, health, well-being and our hearing health depend on building sensible fences for protection as well as to respect the rights of our neighbors. Such “fences” are what good neighbors do for one another: it’s not fences that make good neighbors, it’s good neighbors that make good fences.
When it comes to noise, boundaries and harm, here are thoughts going into the end of the year:
- All shooting ranges require ear protection (including the Tacoma range pictured).
- Communities plan proactively to minimize urban encroachment and second hand noise exposure.
- Hunters get over their false sense of security and use available methods to protect their ears, even for single shots.
- Hunters and non-hunters alike protect their ears and limbs by careful observation of hunting season dates, boundaries and firearm rules.
Thanks to Knox Brooks for presenting his association’s view of the role of suppressors in noise protection and environmental noise control.
ABOUT KNOX WILLIAMS: Knox Williams is the President and a Board Member of the American Silencer Association (ASA), a non-profit trade association that represents the suppressor industry. Knox has been involved with the ASA since it was formed in 2011. Previously, Knox was the Special Projects coordinator at Advanced Armament Corp., a suppressor manufacturer and subsidiary of Remington Arms Company. Knox has a BA in History from the University of Georgia, is a Life Member of the NRA, and is an Eagle Scout.