Gun Silencers Are Not a “Public Health Tool.”


In A Rush?

  • The NRA and Donald Trump Jr. call “firearm induced hearing loss” a health issue – but not gun violence itself.
  • The “Hearing Protection Act” is a pathetic attempt to expand access to gun suppressors.
  • My heart goes out to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) defense of gun suppressors as a health tool is adorable. To hear gun lobbyists speak of firearm induced hearing loss as a serious health topic is akin to me patting the back of a 6-year-old trying to dunk a basketball and saying “aww you’re so cute, nice try.” I found the image for this blog post on the National Firerarms Act Trade and Collector’s Association website; notice the lack of hearing protection device on the child.

Snark aside, in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern American history, I, alongside many, stared blankly into the sky, hoping gun control would finally become a national priority. Then I faced the reality that the NRA spent 30 million dollars to help get Trump elected. But could the NRA really stand idly by while the overwhelming majority of Americans demanded a revisit to the gun control debate?

Armed with a pour of Laphroiag, I consulted google. I looked for anything the NRA published related to public health concerns and I was simultaneously annoyed and appalled. The NRA lobbies for loosened restrictions on gun suppressors, saying this is a solution to firearm induced hearing loss, experienced by avid sportsmen and hunters that have long been shooting without hearing protection devices (HPD). Bear in mind, I’m yet to hear them call gun violence a public health concern.

Oh, you have tinnitus because you’re too cool to wear HPD’s while hunting? Cry me a river.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Quick overview of very cool physiology: when sound enters your ear, it gets funneled to your tympanic membrane (ear drum). The drum beats and sends the impulse to your middle ear bones, which then create waves in the fluid of your cochlea. The ear’s inner hair cells, transmit the specific frequency to your brain’s auditory center and you interpret the sound (I know, science is so rad.) Excessive impulses can damage your hair cells either over time or with a loud explosion or burst of sound.

Our everyday living keeps us around 40-60 decibels. Your fridge hums at 45 decibels and normal chatter lies around 60 decibels (dB). Heavy traffic can reach 85 dB, if you blast your mp3’s, your ears feel 105 dB, and sires ring in at 120 dB. Long term exposure to sounds above 85 dB can cause noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) while short term exposure to sounds above 140 dB can cause permanent hearing loss faster. The high powered rifle used in the Vegas shootings could have delivered over 160 dB to the shooter’s ear.

A Health Issue?

According to Donald Trump Jr., the risk of damaging your hearing from firearm use is “frankly, a health issue.” He actually said that suppressors are a “great way to get kids into guns.” The unprotected ears of gun enthusiasts can get Trump Jr to use the “health issue” angle but the thousands of gun-related deaths, including the 58 in Las Vegas, cannot.

I thought about Hillary Clinton’s tweet asking people to imagine if the shooter had a silencer. This struck a cord as people ran from the sounds of gun shots. Gun lobbyists argued against her and still stand by their claim that suppressors are a health tool. (Check out this article about someone surviving the Virginia Tech shooting because of the sound of gun shots.)

The bill calling for loosened restrictions on gun silencers is even called “The Hearing Protection Act.” If the lay public were to read that title it would sound like it pertained to an occupational restrictions or reimbursement for hearing aids – not a sly health angle to push for more access to gun technology.

An overview of recreational firearm noise exposure by the American Speech and Hearing Association provides several protective measures and none of them include a suppressors. Actually, the first heading in the article says “Firearms are Loud.” Yes, NRA, common sense is a great public health tool. Gun Suppressors are not.

The “Hearing Protection Act” won’t pass. Polls show the majority of Americans, including Republicans and gun owners oppose it. I’m not worried about the bill. I’m more disgusted that the NRA will defend access to gun technology faster than they’ll ever admit access to firearms is a huge issue in this country.

“Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People.”

Right but madmen with access to bump fire stocks and multiple guns can definitely kill more than we care to fathom. Now imagine if they had silencers also.

What’s My Point?

Over 150,000 Americans have died from gun violence since Sandy Hook and we’ve still done nothing. I wish the gun industry cared as much about gun control as they do about the ears of hunters.