Name one commonly available consumer product that’s as loud as a gun. OK, other than a guitar amplifier. Or a chainsaw. The fact that guns are sold without silencers—damaging the hearing of millions of people—is bad enough. The fact that you have to pay $200 to the United States Government to go through a separate approval process that takes months and puts your name on a gun registry to get a license to own a silencer is absurd. Beyond that, under Title 11, Chapter 11-47, Section 11-47-20 of Rhode Island law, possession of silencer is punishable by a mandatory sentence of no less than one year and one day in prison. And no more guns for you. And why is that, then?
A TTAG reader recently suggested that the silencer portion of the 1934 National Firearms Act (the Mother of All U.S. Gun Control Legislation) was added to protect land owners from stealthy poachers. More recently, silencer critics have silenced critics of anti-silencer legislation by voicing concerns about criminals using silencers to find their inner James Bond. I mean, commit heinous crimes.
Stuff and nonsense. As commentator Chris Dunn points out below, a silencer doesn’t actually silence a gun. It reduces its noise to more-or-less acceptable levels. As far as criminal sneakiness is concerned, your average silencer is about as easy to conceal as a large potted plant.
But they do dramatically reduce the risk of serious hearing loss, for both the shooter and anyone within immediate earshot. Because guns are DAMN LOUD.
Sounds is measured in decibels (db for short). The threshold of human hearing is 0 db. A normal conversation generates around 60 db. The same conversation in a restaurant kicks it up 10 db to 70 db. Not to worry; potential hearing damage doesn’t start ’til 85 db, and that’s being conservative.
At 120 db. bad things happen to your hearing, and your ears tell you so. A police or ambulance siren clocks in a 120 db., so cover your ears.
A .22 LR rifle generates 134 decibels of sound. That’s only six db. less than a jet engine at takeoff speed. As you can imagine, it gets worse—a LOT worse—from there. Courtesy m1911.org, here’s the rest of the firearms db destruction data:
150 .410 shotgun
152 .22 LR pistol
153 20 gauge shotgun
155 .223 rifle
155 .25 pistol
156 12 gauge shotgun
156 .30-.30 rifle
156 .308 rifle
156 .44 Special revolver
157 .22 Magnum pistol
157 .45 ACP pistol
158 .380 ACP pistol
158 .38 Special revolver
160 9mm Para pistol
163 .41 Magnum revolver
164 .357 Magnum revolver
164 .44 Magnum revolver
Folks, that’s outside. Shoot any of these guns in an enclosed environment, whether that’s a gun range with concrete walls or (God forbid) inside your own home, and you can EASILY generate over 170 db.
A single shot without ear protection—just one—can cause permanent hearing loss. As in forever.
Even if you’re wearing ear protection, how good is it? Fact: prolonged exposure to any noise above 90 dB can cause gradual hearing loss. Fact: regular exposure of more than one minute to any noise above 103 db risks permanent hearing loss. One minute.
And that’s not to mention the possibility of creating tinnitus: a constant ringing in the ears. Constant. As in every waking minute of your life.
There’s a simple solution to this problem: a silencer. Current add-on firearms noise reduction technology can lower the sound of even the loudest weapon to a safe level. Thanks to companies like Advanced Armament, the effectiveness of firearms noise suppression devices continues to increase—even as the cost comes down.
Why in the world states mandate stupid ass “safety devices” like limited capacity magazines, chamber loaded indicators and 10 friggin’ pound trigger pulls when they aren’t prepared to mandate acceptable noise levels for firearms? It’s perverse.
The idea of government-mandated anything rankles a lot of people for a lot of reasons. And the law of unintended consequences applies. If guns were limited to certain db levels, physics tells us that their manufacturers would have to compromise something to achieve the safety standard: concealability, muzzle velocity, bullet size, etc. At least initially.
For most enthusiasts, lethality when needed is more important than potential hearing damage. They reckon if you’re too stupid to wear ear protection when shooting (see: YouTube), that’s your problem. You can’t fix stupid, and you can’t legislate away its ill effects.
But we already have government interference in firearms noise levels. Remember the silencer tax? Why not reverse it? If you want to shoot a gun that’s loud enough to damage or destroy your hearing and the hearing of people in close proximity, fair enough. Pay extra for it.
It should also be said that an industry-wide reduction in the noise levels produced by firearms would revolutionize the business. Once guns lost their single most obvious drawback, an entire new population of shooters would join the firearms fold. Which is why gun control advocates don’t want to see their widespread adoption.
Ironic eh? The very people who claim to want to regulate guns for our protection won’t regulate guns for our protection.
Anyway, short of emailing your local pol arguing in favor of government interference in the free market, there is something you can do to help yourself and your fellow enthusiast. If enough gun buyers opt for silencers, guns will gradually evolve in the direction of greater sonic safety. So do what I can’t do: buy a silencer and use it.