You Can’t Judge a Bill by the Title

There is currently a bill in Congress, H.R 367, titled the “Hearing Protection Act of 2017”.  Introduced by South Carolina Republican representative Jeff Duncan, it currently has 95 co-sponsors; 94 Republicans and 1 Democrat (Gene Green of Texas).   That’s more than a bit lopsided.  Why wouldn’t the Democrats be just as concerned with protecting our hearing?  Most likely because this bill isn’t really about protecting anyone’s hearing.  It’s about firearms regulations. The words “hearing protection” don’t even appear anywhere in the text of the bill except in the title.  Contrary to its name, “hearing protection” is not the goal of the bill at all but rather a happy little incidental benefit.  So what is it actually about?

The bill’s true purpose, as stated in the text, is “To provide that silencers be treated the same as long guns.”  What the hell does that mean?

The actual intent of the bill is to amend the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the $200 transfer tax currently levied on the purchase of firearm silencers (more accurately suppressors).  If passed, the bill also provides for refunds to anyone who paid the tax after October 22, 2015.  Certainly, the use of muzzle suppressors provides hearing protection for the gun enthusiast and those around him/her.  But it’s highly disingenuous and incredibly misleading for Congress to disguise legislation designed to repeal a firearms tax as legislation to protect hearing.  It seems no more than a devious attempt to sneak it past the gun control lobby without raising a ruckus.  Republicans clearly wished to hide the bill’s intent behind an innocuous title.

But wait!  There’s more!

One of the great tenets of the Republican Party is the reduction of the size of Federal government by returning more authority to the states.  Republicans often characterize Federal legislation (particularly when supported by Democrats) as “government overreach” and usurping states’ rights.  So, let’s take a peek at another provision of the ill-named Hearing Protection Act, specifically Section 4 which states, in part:

“…a law of a State or a political subdivision of a State that, as a condition of lawfully making, transferring, using, possessing, or transporting a firearm silencer in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, imposes a tax on any such conduct, or a marking, recordkeeping or registration requirement with respect to the firearm silencer, shall have no force or effect.”

Simply stated this effectively strips any State or local governing authority of the ability to tax or regulate firearm silencers in any way as well as nullifying any existing regulations.  Apparently, the Republican Party is concerned with government overreach and states’ rights only when it doesn’t suit their agenda.

Perhaps a more appropriate title for H.R 367 might be the “Quieting Firearms Act” or the “Improving Access to Silencers Act”.  Either would more accurately describe the intent of the legislation.  The purpose might be modified “To eliminate certain financial and procedural impediments to obtaining silencers.”

Oops, that would require something called honesty.

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