Legislators learn about firearms and hearing loss

On Monday, February 3, 2014, the Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) and Black Wing Shooting Center held a special range demonstration day. The purpose was to provide education to the legislators and select media about firearms, hearing loss and suppressors. It also provided a range opportunity to hear firearms both with and without suppressors. The legislators were able to ask questions about firearms in general, plus any hunting regulations that might concern them. It was a bipartisan educational opportunity.

Black Wing Shooting Center is Ohio's only 5-Star rated range. They are uniquely qualified with an indoor range, suppressor expertise and being centrally located for the convenience of the legislators. They are a Type 01 FFL with a Special Occupational Taxpayer stamp on their FFL. This certification allows them to sell Title II items such as full-auto firearms and suppressors which are National Firearms Act (NFA) controlled items.

Ken Hanson, Buckeye Firearms Association Legal Chair explains, "The purpose of this demonstration is to give these decision makers a "real-world" demonstration of what a firearm suppressor does, and does not do. For almost all of these people, their only experience with a suppressor is what they see on TV or in the movies, which is wildly inaccurate. They can gain an understanding and make an informed decision."

BFA and the American Silencer Association arranged for an audiologist to be present. Hanson continues, "We requested an audiologist to be present for two reasons. First, before we go out on to the range, we wanted someone who can explain at what levels hearing damage occurs, the significance of reducing muzzle noise. We had a portable sound meter on the range so the unsuppressed and suppressed sound levels were demonstrated empirically. This was not an official ANSI type of test, just an informal reading showing the sound reduction as a number. People understand the numbers."

Eric Bielefeld, who is an Assistant Professor at OSU specializing in noise induced hearing loss, addressed the group. He explained, "We measure sound in decibels (dB) which is actually a logarithmic scale to express that some sounds are louder than others. We start being concerned about hearing loss at 85 to 90dB. The legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace is 90 dB for an eight hour day. That is a recognized cut-off point. There are two factors for hearing damage. First is the intensity level and then the duration of the exposure. The higher the intensity level or the longer the exposure the more likely it is to cause hearing loss. Firearms produce an impulse noise that is of very short duration but also very intense. If noise is above about 130dB or 140dB we have no idea what may happen. You may be fine or you may suffer immediate hearing damage. The higher the dB or the more often you are exposed the more likely it is going to be a problem. Any device that helps to reduce the dB levels and preserve hearing is a good thing."

The range demonstration involved a .45acp handgun and a .308 caliber bolt action rifle. Each firearm was fired unsuppressed with Bielefeld recording and announcing the dB readings. Readings recorded for the unsuppressed .45acp were 119dB to 122dB while the same firearm with a suppressor ranged from 96dB to 101dB. Similar results were obtained firing the .308 rifle. Unsuppressed the rifle readings were 126dB to 131dB while the suppressed readings where 108dB to 110dB. Bielefeld noted, "The suppressor reduced the noise level below the threshold for immediate hearing damage for short duration impulse sounds."

Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine said, "It is very important when there is an opportunity for our legislators to gain first-hand experience before voting on any legislation. In this case, since there are many misconceptions from movie and television portrayal of suppressors it was even more important. Today the elected officials got to see, touch and most importantly hear how a suppressor works. It was done in a very safe, controlled range environment. We thank all those who attended the event. A special thanks to the professionals at Black Wing Shooting Center for opening their store and making their instructors available. These folks gave up part of their day off to support us."

Rex Gore, Black Wing Shooting Center owner, said, "I think this was a great opportunity to have legislators here today. They got to see what a suppressor does. It can help reduce some of the potential for hearing damage. We are glad to help with any opportunity we have to help educate people to become more aware of the shooting sports."

Hanson concludes, "We are very excited about this event, as response was bi-partisan and energetic. We believe everyone left with a much better understanding of suppressors as another tool to reduce the noise impact for shooters and hunters."

Rep. Cheryl Grossman concluded, "I think the professor confirmed the effectiveness of the suppressor. I want to be responsive to my constituents which brought their concerns to me. I am confident after today that HB 234 is a reasonable and responsible option to offer Ohio hunters. It was a good educational process."

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

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