At the 2017 Shot Show, the main topic of discussion in every booth with a suppressor was the Hearing Protection Act, or HPA (a bill which would remove suppressors from the NFA). In talking to so many people about the topic, we quickly realized that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it’s going to take to get it passed. Some people thought it could be passed with an Executive Action, and nearly everyone thought it would be done in the first 90 days of the new presidency.
In order to shed some light on this misunderstood topic, we went straight to the professionals. Todd Rathner is the head of the NFA Freedom Alliance and a member on the NRA’s Board of Directors. To call him knowledgeable when it comes to the HPA is an understatement. This is what we learned from Todd.
Can the HPA be passed by Executive Action?
In short, no—there are all kinds of legislative reasons for this, but at this point in the conversation they don’t really matter. It will take an act of Congress to get HPA passed.
What will it take?
The Senate is the big hang up. At the moment, the HPA would likely get 52 votes, which is eight shy of the 60 that it needs. Most, if not all of those eight votes will have to be Democrats. And, as you can imagine, that’s going to be a tall order.
How long will it take?
Todd’s estimate is that the HPA will take anywhere from a year to two years to get enough support to pass. Of course, this is speculation, but its speculation from a registered gun lobbyist who knows how this stuff works and has a much more educated SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) than nearly anyone else in the conversation.
What will happen when it passes?
The answer to this question, of course, is speculation as well. But the consensus among industry insiders is similar to the AR world after Sandy Hook. Do you remember people buying $500 rifles for $2000 and leaving with a smile on their face? Yeah, we cringe just thinking about it. Prices skyrocketed immediately as demand over-ran supply, and they stayed there far too long. AMTAC will not be raising prices, but you can certainly expect some of this to be happening elsewhere in the industry.
Existing manufacturers ramped up production, and new companies came out of the woodwork. After a while, prices eventually started to fall as manufacturers caught up on the supply end, but by that time the demand had passed, and everyone was over-stocked. Then, the bottom dropped out, and rifles were selling for less than what the stores had paid for them.
Eventually, the balance returned, and we’re right back where we started. Companies that let quality slip (both large and small) started to go under, supply and demand fall back in line, and prices are about where they were a few years ago.
Expect something similar to happen with suppressors.
Should you wait or buy now?
One of the obvious lessons of the gun scare was to buy before things got really crazy, but does the same thing apply to suppressors? After all, the HPA will completely change the way that suppressor purchases happen, so is it worth it to just wait? Todd argued that it’s not a good idea to wait.
Not only is it likely that the HPA may take two years (or even longer) to pass, but when it does there will be an immediate run on suppressors, and lots of people will be left out in the cold. In addition to that, the bill also provides for a tax credit on all taxes paid after its introduction, so if you already paid your $200, you’ll be getting it back anyway.
If you want to buy a suppressor, go buy it now. If you wait for the HPA to pass, it’s likely that you’ll end up waiting quite a while longer than you would if you simply had to let the clock tick by on a Form 4 approval.
What can we do?
So, what can we do to help this bill pass? Call your representatives. Let them know that this is important to you. Our best shot at turning the Hearing Protection Act into reality is to make our representatives’ phones ring off the hook.
If you’re a voting member of the NRA, then please vote for Board of Directors’ candidates that support removing suppressors from the NFA. Not everyone from the NRA is on board with the Hearing Protection Act, and we’re going to need a unified front to get this bill passed.
Todd Rathner, Melanie Pepper, Graham Hill all support the HPA.