When Will the Hearing Protection Act Pass?
by Guy J. Sagi - Monday, February 13, 2017
(Still trying to remove suppressors from Tax Stamp, Latest revision Jan 4,2019)
The Hearing Protection Act of 2017—H.R. 367, introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and John Carter (R-TX)—resurrects a 2015 proposal by then-Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon to ease suppressor ownership restrictions on law-abiding citizens.
For more than 80 years, suppressors have been exiled to a list of National Firearms Act (NFA) items created in 1934—when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House. Ownership of suppressors is generally legal, but qualifying to take one home requires onerous and time-consuming requirements such as, but not limited to, fingerprints, photographs, notifying your local chief law enforcement officer, a background check and a $200 tax stamp.
The Hearing Protection Act, in simplest terms, aims to eliminate the tax stamp and effectively reduce the six-to-nine-month wait—in the 42 states where ownership is legal—by requiring only a NICS background check and a 4473. The bill, as currently written, also refunds money to those who started the purchase process while legislation was pending. It sounds like an easy victory, considering the current administration, but it’s too early to put this one in the win column.
The ground game is ongoing, with the latest proposals—H.R. 367 and S.R. 59 (Sen. Mike Crapo, R-ID, co-sponsored by Jerry Moran, R-KS, and Rand Paul, R-KY)—introduced on Jan. 9, 2017. Both would remove suppressors from NFA listing, and they have garnered 97 and 7 co-sponsors, respectively.
The House version has been referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. Ten Republicans and 7 Democrats make up the current membership, though, it’s particularly good news when coupled with the number of sponsors and the fact the entire voting body of the House has 435 members with 240 of them Republican.
The Senate side, on the other hand, is where firearm owners are getting mixed signals about the certainty of the Hearing Protection Act passage. If enough senators decide more debate is due, they can filibuster and the only way to bring the measure to a vote is called cloture. That requires 60 of the 100 members to vote in favor of legislation being considered—not a simple 51 vote majority if anti-Second Amendment legislators mount the defense.
With a total of 52 Republicans, two independents and 46 Democrats in the U.S. Senate, there might not be enough to pull off a successful vote. Add the relatively low number of co-sponsors, and the assumption that suppressors will be removed from the NFA any time soon is premature.
Even legislation that’s overwhelmingly popular takes time given the legislative process. After legislation is introduced, there will be hearings, mark-ups, amendments and other legislative hurdles in both the Senate and House. In the 113th Congress, for example, the average time it took from introduction to signature into law by the president was slightly more than 263 days. Many took longer. In fact, it took more than five years to pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that prohibits reckless lawsuits against the firearms industry seeking to hold firearms and ammunition manufacturers responsible for the acts of criminals.
Then there’s availability. Suppressor companies, even the big ones, don’t have the supply chain or manufacturing capacity of big firearm firms. So, if you wait to see what happens, you’d better be resigned to wearing hearing protection for at least the next few years. This one-on-one interview with SilencerCo CEO Josh Waldron and Donald Trump, Jr. provides some eye-opening numbers and makes it obvious there is going to be a huge gap in supply if the measure passes. “It’s going to be like the run on .22LR ammunition,” he said.
So, if you’re considering buying a suppressor but are holding off until the HPA passes, my advice is to go ahead and buy it. We all know Congress isn’t known for it’s speedy consideration of legislation, and there’s no guarantee that it will pass in the near future. The current legislation’s wording would also refund your tax-stamp money, so there may never be a better time to buy.
NRA-ILA is reminding members and enthusiasts to contact their representatives by phone, writing and e-mail to let them know they need to support the Hearing Protection Act. The Trump administration’s overwhelming support has lulled some into a false sense of victory, making action critical.
“Gun owners and sportsmen should be able to enjoy their outdoor heritage with the tools necessary to do so safely,” NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox said. “This bill makes it easier for them to do that.”
Hearing Loss Linked to Depression
Older adults with hearing loss may be more likely than peers without hearing difficulty to develop symptoms of depression, a research review suggests.
Globally, more than 1.3 billion people currently live with some form of hearing loss, and their ranks are expected to rise with the aging population, the study team notes in The Gerontologist. About 13 percent of adults 40 to 49 years old have hearing loss, as do 45 percent of people 60 to 69 years old and 90 percent of adults 80 and older, the authors write.
To assess the connection between hearing loss and depression, researchers analyzed data from 35 previous studies with a total of 147,148 participants who were at least 60 years old.
Compared to people without hearing loss, older adults with some form of hearing loss were 47 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression, the study found.
"We know that older adults with hearing loss often withdraw from social occasions, like family events because they have trouble understanding others in noisy situations, which can lead to emotional and social loneliness," said lead study author Blake Lawrence of the Ear Science Institute Australia, in Subiaco, and the University of Western Australia in Crawley.
"We also know that older adults with hearing loss are more likely to experience mild cognitive decline and difficulty completing daily activities, which can have an additional negative impact on their quality of life and increase the risk of developing depression," Lawrence said by email.
"It is therefore possible that changes during older age that are often described as a 'normal part of aging' may actually be contributing to the development of depressive symptoms in older adults with hearing loss," Lawrence said.
The connection between hearing loss and depression didn't appear to be influenced by whether people used hearing aids, the study also found.
One limitation of the analysis is that it included studies with a wide variety of methods for assessing hearing loss and symptoms of depression.
Still, the results of the analysis do add to evidence suggesting that there is a link between hearing loss and depression, said Dr. Nicholas Reed of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
First, hearing loss impairs communication and influences balance, which can lead to social isolation and decreased physical activity that, in turn, result in depression, Reed said.
Hearing loss may also cause tinnitus, or perceived ringing or buzzing in the ear, that can be especially debilitating in some cases and contribute to depression, Reed, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.
In addition, hearing loss may trigger changes in the brain that contribute to depression.
"When we experience hearing loss, it also means that we're sending a weaker auditory signal to our brains for processing," Reed said. "This weak signal may mean our brains have to go into overdrive to understand sound (i.e. speech) which may come at the expense of another neural process (i.e., working memory). Also, the weak signal may cause certain neural areas and pathways to reorganize, which could change how our brain, including aspects that regulate depression, function."
While the study doesn't examine whether treating hearing loss can prevent depression or other health problems, people should still seek help for hearing difficulties, said David Loughrey, a researcher at the Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin who wasn't involved in the study.
"Hearing loss has been linked to difficulties in daily life including difficulty with socializing and fatigue due to the increased mental effort required to understand speech, especially in noisy environments," Loughrey said by email. "If someone is experiencing difficulties due to hearing loss or if they have any concerns about their mental wellbeing, they should consult a medical professional who can assist them."
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Hearing Protection Act: Update
Jan 4, 2019
U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-SC, on Thursday, reintroduced a proposal to remove suppressors from National Firearms Act regulations.
“The Hearing Protection Act is a commonsense bill that is important to all sportsmen and women across the country,” said Duncan in a statement. “Personally, I have experienced hearing damage from firearm noise, and I believe easier access to suppressors may have prevented much of this damage from early on in my life.”
In addition to removing silencers and suppressors from NFA requirements that include a $200 tax stamp, the proposal would mandate the more than 1.5 million already registered be deleted from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ records within 365 days of the bill becoming law. Further, while states would not be required to allow their sale or possession, they would be barred from establishing their own potentially prohibitive taxes or registration requirements on legal devices.
In the end, suppressors would be treated as firearms – which would allow them to be transferred through any regular federal firearms license holders to anyone not prohibited from possessing them after the buyer passes an FBI instant background check.
Duncan’s original Hearing Protection Act garnered 166 co-sponsors in the House last session and was rolled into a larger package of pro-hunting legislation, the SHARE Act, which was reported out of committee but never made it out of Congress.
Meanwhile, with California Democrat Nancy Pelosi elected this week by the controlling majority as Speaker of the House, Dems are expected to bring up a host of gun control legislation this session, making the likelihood of pro-gun bills making it to successful floor votes in the chamber slim.graph here.
H.R. 2430 (115th):
FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017
Although health care is one of the most partisan political subjects, a new health care law was just signed with almost unanimous support. The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 aims to lower prescription drug prices, amid skyrocketing health insurance costs.
What the law does
The law is an amalgamation of provisions from at least eight different standalone healthcare-related bills which had been introduced earlier this year from both parties. Among its most notable provisions:
Reauthorizes so-called “user fees” to the Food and Drug Administration for five years. These fees are paid for by medical drug and device manufacturers with every new product application, and will account for $8 billion over the next five years, or about a quarter of the FDA’s total budget. President Trump actually wanted the FDA funded 100 percent by user fees, as a way of keeping the agency funded while slashing the taxpayer-funded portion, but that plan was rejected by Congress for now.
Allows certain types of hearing aids to be sold over the counter. An estimated five-sixths of Americans with hearing loss don’t get hearing aids, in large part because the devices are so expensive. The provision passed over the opposition from an unlikely but powerful source: gun rights groups, which claimed the provision could allow the FDA to regulate sound amplification devices often used by hunters. (It wouldn’t.)
Requires the FDA speed up approval process for many types of generic drugs. The sped-up process would be invoked if a similar medication is being sold at an “egregious” price. That could mean huge savings for consumers and taxpayers, as generic drugs usually cost about 80 to 85 percent less than their name-brand competitors.
The Right to Try Act was separately passed by the Senate. This would allow the terminally ill to access experimental drugs and medications prior to FDA approval, a process which can normally take years. Although that’s a separate bill, Senate lead sponsor Ron Johnson (R-WI) threatened to hold up the entire FDA Reauthorization Act — which he otherwise supported and ultimately voted for — unless his own languishing Right to Try Act received a separate vote in the Senate. It passed with unanimous consent, and now awaits a vote in the House. If enacted, it would be as standalone legislation, not as a component of the FDA Reauthorization Act.
What supporters and opponents say
Supporters argue the law will lower costs and keep the FDA in line with the changing times.
The law “is ensuring that safe and effective, life-saving treatments will continue to reach American patients, from innovative new drugs, to generic drugs, biosimilars, and medical devices,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price said in a statement. “The law will support our team at FDA as they carry out the HHS mission to enhance and protect the health and well-being of the American people and continue to advance medical breakthroughs.”
Only former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted against the bill in the Senate.
Sanders believed the legislation “does nothing to lower drug prices and is a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry,” a spokesperson told Axios. He also protested the Senate’s rejecting a provision he proposed for the bill, which would have allowed Americans to more easily purchase or obtain medications from Canada, where costs are noticeably less expensive.
The last time the reauthorization of FDA fees passed passed was in 2012, and Sanders was the only Senate opposer then too.
It passed the House on July 12 by voice vote, meaning there was no significant opposition and no record of individual votes was cast. The bill was introduced by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR2), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
It then passed the Senate on August 3 by 94–1, with the aforementioned Sen. Sanders opposing, after being introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
President Donald Trump signed the current version into law on August 18. It was introduced in the House as H.R. 2430 and the Senate as S. 934, but is now designated Public Law 115–52.