Friday, March 31, 2017

Ideologues Versus Science

There is currently a battle going on between anti-science ideologues and those committed to a health-related change in the laws based upon science. You have doctors, public health advocates, and civil rights advocates on one side and you have the New York Times and anti-health prohibitionists on the other side. I am talking about the battle between those for and opposed to the Hearing Protection Act of 2017.

The New York Times weighed in the battle with an absurd editorial entitled "Echoes of Gunfire Hurt Tender N.R.A. Ears". As per their usual, they conflated the number of deaths attributed to the use of a firearm to include intentional deaths (suicides), they misrepresented the intent of Congress for adding suppressors to the National Firearms Act, and they created a strawman by insisting the public would be at risk because "ShotSpotters" would not be able to hear gunfire.
The annual tally of 30,000-plus gun deaths accounts for just a tiny fraction of the total shots fired, most of which miss their targets but terrorize neighborhoods. Amid the lethal cacophony, the police in more than 90 cities here and abroad seek to reach the scene of the latest gun troubles more quickly by using an audio detection system called ShotSpotter, which triangulates the sound of gunfire onto computer maps. Police officers in major cities hail these precise early alarms of where the latest shooting is.

Yet despite these advances, the National Rifle Association argues, self-servingly, that noisy guns are a public health hazard. With the help of supporters like President Trump’s son Donald Jr., a gun hobbyist, it wants to roll back an 80-year-old federal law that tightly controls the sale of firearm silencers. Immune to irony, the N.R.A.’s congressional friends have introduced a measure called the Hearing Protection Act, which contends that the sound of gunfire is hard on the ears of gun owners.

“What about the rest of us?” the nation’s unarmed majority might well ask. When it comes to public health, the noisier a gun is, the better the chances for innocent bystanders to hit the ground and for police officers to apprehend the shooter.
I guess reading the Washington Post is beneath the editorial board of the New York Times. The Post reported only four days earlier that the CEO of ShotSpotter said their devices had detected suppressed gunfire in the past and would be able to detect it in the future with some fine-tuning.

Then there is Mark Kelly aka Mr. Gabby Giffords of Americans for Responsible Solutions (sic) who has been leading the charge against suppressors.

From a fundraising email:
One of those bills would lift restrictions on the sale of firearm silencers.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that firearm silencers work like you see them in the movies — where someone fires a gun and it wouldn’t wake a person sleeping in the same room.

But silencers do suppress sound and light when a weapon is discharged, and that makes them attractive accessories for criminals who want to conceal their crimes.
Attractive accessories for criminals? Really? Actually, criminals want to scare the shit out of you with the noise of a firearm report because it tends to make victims more compliant.

You would think someone who had been around jet engines like Kelly would have an appreciation for the damage that loud noises do to hearing. I know I do because every day for me is like a hot summer night in Mississippi where the crickets, cicadas, and tree frogs keep up an incessant noise. That is what tinnitus sounds like to sufferers like me.

On the rational, scientific side of this debate are groups like Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. They have just released a position paper in favor of suppressors to prevent hearing loss. The four primary authors of the paper are all board-certified physicians specializing in otolaryngology or ear, nose, and throat issues. The following is from their executive summary of the paper:
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a real public health problem:

The causal relationship between loud noise exposure and irreversible hearing loss has long been recognized by medicine and the U.S. government.

NIHL is permanent and untreatable. Prevention is the only possible intervention.

Demonstrable need:

NIHL is the most prevalent service-connected disability among Veterans.

Per the CDC, 15% of adults aged 18 and over (or nearly 38 million American) have hearing problems.

Over 100 million Americans who own guns are at risk for gunshot-induced NIHL. Auditory injuries are sustained by bystanders the same as by shooters.

Nearly all gunshots exceed the noise threshold for instant damage to the hearing cells of the inner ear. And their explosive blast generates 1,000 times the force on the eardrum than the noise itself.

Benefit of suppressors:

Muzzle blast sound levels from most firearms range from 140 to over 170 decibels. 120 decibels is considered the maximum safe level for short exposures (the intensity of a car horn 3 feet away). Ear plugs and/or ear muffs only reduce noise by 20-30 decibels.

Evidence supporting the need for greater use of firearms suppressors comes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, the Centers for Disease Control, as well as academic and military research.

Muzzle-mounted suppressors are vastly superior to ear protectors, providing 50% greater noise reduction. Only suppressors can make most modern firearms safe for hearing, as noise at gun ranges routinely reaches 160 decibels.
I would urge readers to study the position paper issued by Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. It provides great graphics and is extensively sourced. Moreover, unlike most doctor's handwriting, it is both readable and understandable!

Our first suppressor arrived this week after a wait of over three-fourths of a year. As I said in that post, can you think of any other consumer product for the health and safety of both the purchaser and the general public for which you have to ask the government for permission to take possession of it on top of paying $200 for the privilege? It is time for Congress to act on the established science of hearing loss and pass the Hearing Protection Act.


  1. Wow... Just... Wow... As usual, the truth IS the last thing through the door... I'm looking at 9 months for my second one. I'm hoping it passes, sooner rather than later!

    1. I am estimating 12 months on my Form 1 requests put in just before the July deadline. The ATF website was so overloaded that I had to submit them around 5am in the morning. That said, if the HPA is passed and suppressor come down in price after the initial surge, I might just buy a pre-made suppressor. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the HPA.