Firearms Mufflers- politics trumps safety

By Rob Morse | SlowFacts

This will be our epitaph if the US fails as a country;

“We wanted to stop doing stupid things..
..but we were addicted to money and power.”

Our list of our stupid government actions is endless, but the regulation of firearms mufflers has to be near the top of the list. I didn’t believe it until I heard it with my own ears. We should be shouting for muffler deregulation.

I’ve worked around equipment that was so loud it would quickly damage your hearing. You’re required to wear hearing protection when you’re near it, and you’ll be removed from the job site if you don’t. If you fly, then you’ve seen the ramp crews wearing hearing protection as they service the planes. Many guns are louder than those jet engines. Gun owners have to take hearing protection seriously.

We did the opposite in the case of firearms. We imposed high taxes and long delays on the very equipment that makes firearms safer to be around. That would be considered criminal negligence if anyone other than the government were regulating firearms mufflers. It doesn’t make sense, but that is the way government works.. so far.

I’ve heard and read several objections to quieter firearms. I think we’re arguing with fantasy rather than fact. The fantasy came from Hollywood crime dramas rather than from the shooting range. Firearms mufflers don’t make a gun silent any more than a muffler makes your car silent. What mufflers do is make a very loud shot about a thousand times less loud. Good mufflers go a little further and make some guns marginally safe for a single exposure. Since these muffled guns are still as loud as a jack hammer, they are not safe for us to be around hour after hour. Instructors and students still want to wear hearing protection.

We don’t see firearms mufflers used in crime because the muffler makes the firearm too large to conceal. That is the same reason that criminals choose handguns over rifles. Muffled guns are about as loud as a jackhammer and I haven’t read about secret construction sites that are so quiet we can’t find them. Have you?

Mufflers are not high technology. Like the muffler on your car engine, the muffler on a firearm is basically a bunch of baffles in a can, a bunch of washers in a tube. The firearm muffler was patented 110 years ago. Unfortunately, our politics hasn’t matured a lot since then.

Gun owners can purchase firearms mufflers over the counter in several European countries and in New Zealand. There, they cost about 50 dollars(US). Here in the USA, we require a federal tax stamp before we can buy a firearms muffler. The tax stamp alone costs 200 dollars and the muffler costs an additional 300 to 400 dollars.

To add insult to damaged hearing, the federal approval to buy a firearms muffler can take several months. That is hard to understand since the FBI instant background check to buy a firearm takes only minutes. Someone must be benefitting from the existing scheme for this poor system of regulation to continue. I can’t decide if it is stupidity, bureaucratic incompetence, or political corruption. There are reasons to suspect each of them.

Mufflers make firearms more pleasant to use. That is particularly important for new shooters. Can you imagine if we made people learn to drive in a car that didn’t have a muffler? Driving wouldn’t be very popular if the student and instructor had to shout at each other all the time. A muffler makes firearms instruction both safer and more fun. Maybe that is why some politicians make it so hard to get a firearms muffler. You have to really hate armed america to want the legal use of firearms to be more more dangerous and unpleasant than it has to be.

There are other reasons it is so hard to get a muffler for our guns. As I said before, if the muffler were regulated like a firearm, then it would only take a few minutes and a few dollars to run a background check. The six month bureaucratic delay is political. I looked up the numbers for muffler sales in the US. We bought close to a half million firearms mufflers in 2016. At 200 dollars per tax stamp, we paid close to a hundred million dollars in federal taxes to save our hearing.

That isn’t a lot of money compared to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ budget of 1.2 billion dollars, but 100 million is enough that the bureaucrats want the registration scheme to continue. They are addicted to the money.

Politicians who don’t like firearms want guns to be as unpleasant as possible. Both bureaucrats and politicians want to keep the taxes flowing into Washington. Those reasons might explain the problems we observe today, but those are not good reasons to damage our hearing. If you don’t believe me, then please go shoot a muffled firearm yourself.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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