Killing HPA: Did 3 Big Silencer Brands Sell Us ALL Out?

Killing HPA: Did 3 Big Silencer Brands Sell Us ALL Out? Silencers protect the hearing of the person shooting AND everyone around them. We should encourage silencer use in the […]

Killing HPA: Did 3 Big Silencer Brands Sell Us ALL Out?
GEMTECH GM-45 Silencer Review - Savage MKII

Silencers protect the hearing of the person shooting AND everyone around them. We should encourage silencer use in the US as a common sense improvement over cumbersome hearing protection headsets and earplugs. However, Hollywood’s portrayal of suppressors as the exclusive tools of evil assassins has sustained an absurd hysteria among anti-gun types that has, and WILL CONTINUE TO prevent the removal of silencers from the National Firearms Act.

The writing is on the wall that some of the biggest names in the silencer industry have already accepted that silencers will remain NFA items. It even appears that a few are maneuvering to take the pressure off of politicians and ensure that legislation to remove silencers from the NFA will fail, as continuation of the NFA process gives them an unfair advantage.

Here are 5 reasons why silencers will not be removed from the NFA?

1) Legislators don’t think we care

Congressmen and Senators react to threats to their political survival. Simply put, the consumers that would like to own silencers haven’t been vocal and persistent enough to convince legislators that removing silencers from the NFA is worth their time. We were played masterfully in 2016 when the ATF saw momentum rising for both silencer ownership and removal of silencers from the NFA. To kill that momentum the ATF introduced the 41F changes that made the NFA process more cumbersome, confusing and time consuming. Rather than scream at the top of our lungs and demand our legislators fix this and remove silencers from the NFA, most consumers opted to quietly wait for HPA to pass. Heck, I was one of those consumers that bought the hype early in 2017. But consumers giving up when faced with an absurd $200 tax and NFA processes designed to fail aren’t to blame for all of this…

2) HPA is a political football

There are too many politicians that see their control of our freedoms as a big game. To them, the HPA and similar bills only exist as bargaining chips to get concessions on other bills.
Don’t believe it? See the prior paragraph. I hope I am wrong on this, but have yet to see any tangible results to suggest I am off base here.

3) No intent to advance HPA

The biggest companies supporting the bills to remove silencers from the NFA (HPA, SHUSH, SHARE) have recently changed their tune and introduced a barcode based Form 4 generator process to speed up the existing NFA filing process. It baffles me that so many folks applaud this short term band-aid instead of curing the problem for good. If these brands really wanted or expected silencers to be removed from the NFA, then they would not have wasted money developing a new bar code Form 4 generator process to make the NFA process less painful. A less unpleasant process means people are less likely to DEMAND the laws change and remove silencers from NFA all together.

If the brands behind the Form 4 generator bar code system wanted to get silencers off of the NFA, then the brands would reinforce how painful the NFA process is for everyone. That pain is what will make consumers pressure their lawmakers. Sadly, pressuring lawmakers is the only way we can get silencers removed from the NFA.

The unethical market manipulation end-game

The new bar code Form 4 generator system that is supposed to speed up NFA forms routes data through systems owned by the silencer brands that developed the bar code Form 4 generator system.  This obviously gives those brands an advantage with predicted shorter wait times for NFA forms. However, the even bigger advantage is that they have visibility into every form that crosses the system. What better way to set your brand up to dominate the market than creating a system to mine confidential market data for your own benefit? *editor’s note: This is not speculation. However, I can not reveal the source without exposing them. *

An observation from the head of a small silencer company… shared with me on the condition that ID be withheld:

*editors note: I have updated to show the full quote since it explains where this idea came from.

“What pisses me off the most is that if the ATF has adopted a new process. THEY should be making the process available for everyone instead of forcing everyone to the Silencer Shop developed portal.  I know for a fact, because Silencer Shop told me so last year that their end game is data capture, which they intend to sell to dealers,  distributors, manufacturers, etc.  They now gain access to EVERY suppressor sold, not just the ones they sell.  They know where the hot markets are, they know what the hot brands are, the most popular calibers, price points, highest selling dealers, etc etc.  It provides an unfair business advantage and the consumers will ultimately pay the price when competition disappears and prices rise.  “

Let that sink in.

Frankly, I can’t imagine this arrangement is legal. It certainly isn’t ethical. Every silencer company besides the three that developed the bar code Form 4 generator system are at an unfair disadvantage. I am a huge proponent of “survival of the fittest” and those who innovate reaping the rewards… as long as it is done fairly. That ATF would agree to let some brands house and transmit sales and Tax information for the entire industry is a clear and massive ethical issue.

4) Not enough damage has been done

Those delaying HPA got an unexpected reward… the combined effects of 41f and HPA hype caused the “HPA Effect“. Consumers have largely opted to sit on their wallets and wait for silencers to be removed from the NFA instead of dealing with the absurd hassles and expense of the current NFA process. As a result, lots of small to mid sized silencer brands are truly hurting. Layoffs in the silencer industry have been common and some brands are either out of business, or effectively mothballed in hopes they can survive until the laws change. The anti-gun and anti-silencer crowd has recognized that the longer they can drag out the a decision on HPA, giving potential silencer buyers hope that HPA will pass, the more damage will be done to silencer companies. I don’t doubt that the biggest silencer companies have noticed this as well and like the prospect that every month their competition bleeds out a little more.

5) Eyes on the prize

Lets be honest here. The Hearing Protection Act is crap.

Either the HPA or SHARE Act would remove silencers from the NFA, but still treat them as firearms. Treating gun mufflers as “firearms” is silly, at best, because SILENCERS ARE NOT FIREARMS. They are just hollow tubes. It is an audacious insult to our collective intelligence that those who think it their right to decide what freedoms us common folk are fit to enjoy would even consider trying to tell us that a metal tube is somehow a “firearm”. It would be funny if it weren’t so obscenely nonsensical.

The SHUSH Act is a step in the right direction. SHUSH would make gun mufflers no harder to buy than car mufflers by classifying silencers as simple, unregulated gun accessories. However, even SHUSH leaves the rest of the NFA, and all of it’s remaining infringements intact. What part of “Shall not be infringed” confuses people? We need to stay focused on clawing back the various infringements on our natural rights. HPA and SHARE simply aren’t worthy of our strong support. SHUSH is a better option, I fear for that reason that it will get no real consideration from our legislators.

Talking head?

Within a day or so of the bar code Form 4 generator system announcement I saw Adam Kraut gushing in a video about how awesome the new Form 4 generator bar code system is. I was baffled. I usually agree with just about everything Adam says and have built up a fair amount of respect for him and how generous he is in sharing his legal opinions with the firearms community. That said, I can’t figure out how any rational person who honestly believes silencers should be “over the counter” can be happy about the Form 4 generator bar code system.

Instead of getting rid of a ridiculous NFA process our government uses to restrict our rights and discourage ownership of NFA items… the Form 4 generator bar code system leaves all restrictions in place and seeks to make the NFA process take a bit less time. Sure, the bar code system is a minor improvement in the short term. However, this short term convenience will reduce the urgency to remove silencers from the NFA.

Strategic suicide or opportunistic sellout?

My very first thought when I heard about the Form 4 generator bar code system was “Those sellouts! This will sabotage the efforts to get silencers off of the NFA”
When you have an energized base willing to rally around a cause and make legislative change a priority, it is strategic suicide to make any efforts to lessen the pain of the process that you want changed.

 It looks to me like the bar code Form 4 generator system and electronic fingerprint scanners are a clear sign that the brands involved:
  • don’t believe silencers will be removed from the NFA in the next few years
  • saw an opportunity to create multiple unfair advantages in the market
Rather than continue to advance the HPA, SHUSH and SHARE Act efforts, the brands chose to push a short term “fix”. From a business standpoint, I have seen lots of silencer companies suffer significantly because of the “HPA Effect“. I can see how those brands might rationalize a short term win in the name of self preservation and market share gains. One might even say that it is a brilliant strategy… when your competitors are on the ropes and suffering, change the rules and cut them off at the knees. While their shareholders might celebrate, I still hate it since it puts private, personal tax info and industry data in the hands of the brands controlling the data systems and makes their support of HPA look like a sham designed to thin the herd and eliminate their competition.

What do you think?

I hope I am dead wrong on all of this, but the writing has been collecting on the wall for too long to ignore it.
Will silencers be removed from the NFA in 2017? Or even in 2018?

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits.

A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management.

Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.