By Marc Kelley
Syndicated by: Montana News
Last week we looked at the legal status of silencers, how they came to be regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act and some of the myths surrounding their use, which have been perpetuated by Hollywood and the anti-gun left. This week we will look at the economic impact, caused by the inaction of our lawmakers as they choose to ignore the truth and flinch at the thought of addressing a health problem, for the sake of enriching their personal portfolios.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is the governmental agency responsible for measuring and limiting workplace noise. Ask any business person working with machinery, just how many regulations are required by OSHA, for protecting the hearing of their employees; and, they will most likely hand you a thick binder, containing the regulations and required noise limiting equipment, which our government mandates. Deep inside the OSHA binder, you will find the maximum, permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 decibels, for a period of an eight hour workday. Noise levels found to be in excess of 85-dBA, require hearing protection and is required by Federal Law.
Noise, as the human brain perceives it, is subjective, meaning , much like when your Dr. asks you to rate your pain from 1-10, one persons level 10 pain may be another persons level 5 pain. Noise, like pain, cannot be objectively measured and we must conclude, noises like pain, is what a person tell us it is. Sound on the other hand, can be measured, using what we know as, the decibel scale. For most people, a noise which is 10 dBA louder than another, is perceived to be twice as loud. A good example would be the noise created by a 60-dBA air conditioner, would be perceived as twice as loud, as a 50-dBA refrigerator. A good rule of thumb to understand decibels is, for every 10-dBA increase, the acoustic intensity increases tenfold. Understanding what 90 decibels actually is, requires one to compare the everyday sounds, we all encounter. According to the 2017 study written by, The American Journal of Public Health, a thunder clap is consistent with 120-dBA. Live rock music falls between 108 and 114-dBA. A gasoline powered lawnmower creates 96-dBA and our kitchen garbage disposal, is rated at 80-dBA.
Armed with a better understanding of the difference between noise and sound and the system for measuring and comparing the two, we can move on to our main subject. Silencers or suppressors, which ever term you prefer, dramatically reduced the decibel level of a gunshot. This reduction in decibel level is in thanks, to the placement of baffles, inside the silencer its self. For the science nerds out there, we must address how this reduction, actually comes about. The first rule of thermodynamics states: energy cannot be created or destroyed; however, it can be transformed from one form to another. When a firearm is discharged, and the gunpowder inside the cartridge ignited, a pressure wave is created by the rapid expansion of gas. It is this pressure wave, which we humans perceive, as the firearms report. By adding a silencer, which is filled with baffles, the pressure wave is slowed and its energy is converted to heat; thereby, reducing the decibel level of the fired cartridge.
Again, according to the American Journal of Public Health 2017 study, exposure to sound levels of 130 dBA will cause immediate and permeant hearing damage. For our purposes, we will consider the dBA rating for a few firearms. First, the .22 caliber long rifle cartridge dBA rating is 140. The 9mm, 160, the 45 ACP 157, the 12 gauge shotgun 160 and a 357 Magnum 165. The act of firing a gun can be considered nothing short of an assault on our hearing. Each of the afore mentioned calibers are capable of causing permanent, irreversible hearing damage.
For our law-makers, identifying the actual cost of treating hearing loss, is a subject which either reflects their ambivalence or to use a recently stated excuse, it is simply beyond their purview. While no one seems to care about the general public, there is a treasure trove of data, which has been compiled on our great Veterans and the hearing loss they experienced while serving our country. In 2016, The Journal of Military Medicine, published their findings in the article, "The Economic Burden of hearing Loss for the US Military", estimating the cost of care to be, 242.4 million dollars per year. According to the VA, in November 2017, there are 18.8 Million Vets living in the US. As thankful as we are for their service and sacrifice, their numbers make up less than 8% of our population.
It does not require a great leap of faith, to come to the conclusion, hearing loss and permanent damage, caused by exposure to the sound levels generated by firearms, have an significant economic impact on the cost of healthcare. Yet, once again, Congress has failed to act, and to protect the people of our country. It is time to begin writing your Congressman and your Senators. Let them know, it's high time to get off their hind-parts and do something meaningful for our citizens. To look at the data and stop perpetuating the Hollywood myth, silencers are the chosen tool of the assassin. There is overwhelming evidence, we can reduce hearing loss and the corresponding healthcare costs of treating that hearing loss, by passing the Hearing Protection Act legislation. By continuing to make silencers a political issue, rather than a healthcare issue, our lawmakers are not only guilty of in-action, but cruelty and shortsightedness.