Monday, June 10, 2024

Conversations with Brandon Maddox #2: the Hearing Protection Act

Brandon Maddox at Silencer Central, 2024 

Brandon Maddox and Silencer Central is an American success story. Brandon went from a Federal Firearms License  (FFL) in his home to the largest silencer dealer in the USA. Today, Brandon's companies dominate the silencer/suppressor market, regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA).

This correspondent met Brandon Maddox at the 2024 SHOT Show. Brandon had read several AmmoLand articles, recognized this writer, and started a conversation. Brandon graciously agreed to be interviewed. This is the second in a series of articles resulting from several interviews. Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity. Link to Brandon Maddox #1.

Silencers are currently regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA). Such items require a $200 tax, with a Byzantine, intrusive application process, including a photograph, fingerprints and a wait time of several months to over a year to accomplish.  

The Hearing Protection Act (HPA) would move silencers/suppressors out of the jurisdiction of the NFA and regulate them with the same standards as rifles or shotguns.  Brandon Maddox has strong opinions about the HPA.

Weingarten: Did you have a position on the Hearing Protection Act (HPA)? 

Brandon Maddox: We would love for that to pass. It would open it up where we would be able to  sell more suppressors.  We are both a dealer and we also are manufacturers. We have a line of products that are some of the best selling in the nation. People may not realize this, because people do not have access to them because we sell direct. We could sell a whole lot more if they became non-NFA items. 

I think where we differ from some people is we feel there could be some sort of crawl, walk, run. Some people are really focused on  HPA, HPA, HPA.  To me, it is obvious Biden is not going to sign that. I get trying to create some momentum for that. What we have been looking for is: are there some key wins we can get for the silencers that would help us gradually get closer to the Hearing Protection Act getting approved instead of focusing solely on that?

For example, We submitted a bill to Congress (House) (and are) looking to submit a version to the Senate as well. Currently the $200 NFA tax, created in 1934, goes directly to the Treasury, goes directly into the General Fund. 

So what we are looking at, is there a way to allocate that money similar to the Pittman-Robertson that goes to conservation?  Then also you drill that down where you put more for gun ranges and benefit youth training. Then also put a component in there where the ATF has 90 days to approve a silencer, or it is automatically approved. By forcing their hand to do that, we would allocate some of the funds that come from the tax stamp to the ATF so they could increase their infrastructure, whether it be electronic or hiring whatever they need to do to get the systems in place so they can approve these in 90 days. 

Our concern is that from a non-NFA item if the FBI does a background check, and they come up with a "further review" option, after three days, the dealer can actually transfer it. So we are trying to create something analogous to that with NFA. If you have been running a background check and after 90 days, you can't determine whether it's able to be approved, we would like for it to automatically be approved.

Weingarten: That would be a major change.

Brandon Maddox: Oh Yeah! Because that's the problem now. So the FBI would say,  we are statutorily required to focus 100% of our efforts on the local dealer and firearms transfers so that we can meet that three day minimum and give a response to the dealer before they just automatically transfer it. 

I get their problem is a lot of these records are, a person might have been charged with X and there is nothing in writing, or records have been destroyed, so they do not know how it ended, like if the person was charged with something different. That creates the open item. We would like for there to be some finality on that open check with NFA. Now, not only is it statutorily a non-priority, the priority is for regular FFL dealers for non-NFA.  There is no deadline. 

My position is the ATF has 60 days to determine whether I am a licensee. So on my applications they have 60 days to respond. If I change my address as an FFL, statutorily they have 30 days to respond.  So it doesn't seem unreasonable to say you have 90 days to respond to a customer submitting to be approved on an NFA item.

Weingarten: Whether it is doable is hard to know. 

Brandon Maddox: What is interesting, the conservation groups, luckily, are typically Democrat and Republican. There are a lot of moderates that support conservation. The theory is, if we can move some of that money from the tax stamp into conservation, you start getting more Democrats, you start getting people like Manchin because he's West Virginia's senator, and the NFA branch is based there.

The thought was we could get them on that side. Then say, pretty much everyone wants to speed up the process. Even Democrats are into "funding additional ATF activity". If you could get some more funding for NFA, then you could say: Not only are we going to hold you to 90 days, we are going to give you 5,10,15 million dollars to implement it. Then it seems more reasonable.

Weingarten: It sounds like a reasonable approach to me. 

Brandon Maddox: That is what I would call baby steps toward the Hearing Protection Act

Weingarten: Here is a corollary question: You have built an empire by making it easier for people to go through the convoluted, Byzantine process of getting permission to own a silencer. If that process becomes essentially non-existent, and you can buy a silencer the same as you can buy a rifle, are you worried about the effect it could have on your business?

Maddox: Let me ask you a question. We look at our business as two separate businesses.  We have the Banish Suppressors as one side of our business and we have the Silencer Central process as another side of our business. When you look at the potential upside for the Banish suppressors, the upside is so great it completely negates any concerns with the impact on the process side.

Weingarten: Its a good argument.

Maddox: 100 percent! There are so many obstacles. People don't like to pay for something they don't get instantly. People don't like to wait. People feel like they are getting scrutinized with fingerprints, photos, create a trust, sheriffs notified. All these things are barriers to keep people from buying. I always say, I have eighteen manufacturers making Banish suppressors for me. If the HPA went through, I would be in a position where I could increase my volume 10, 20 fold kind of overnight. It is a great scenario!

Analysis:  It depends on the 2024 elections. If Donald Trump wins the Presidency and the Republicans take the Senate and hold the House, the HPA might pass quickly. It almost did in 2016, but failed because of RINOs, especially Paul Ryan, who was Speaker of the House.  If Biden or another Democrat wins the Presidency, the HPA is dead.  If Trump wins the Presidency, but Democrats control the House or Senate, the baby steps approach put forward by Brandon Maddox could speed up and simplify the NFA process. The more legal silencers there are, the closer we come to removing them from the NFA.

©2024 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

ScienceABC123 said...

This is a common sense approach to gun laws, therefore the Democrats will be against it.