Gunfire and Hearing Loss

In Pennsylvania, patrol rifles carried by Spokane police officers who work patrol will soon be equipped with suppressors.

The reason for the upgrade is to protect officers and civilians alike from loss of hearing, according to the agency.

“It’s nothing more than like the muffler you put on your car,” Lt. Rob Boothe, the range master and lead firearms instructor for the department told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Supporters of the change say the addition of the suppressors to the department’s 181 service rifles will cut down on legal costs associated with worker’s compensation claims filed by officers who say they have suffered hearing loss.

The change will also protect the agency and the city from liability in the form of lawsuits filed by bystanders who might sue due to ear damage because the rifles lacked suppressors.

The $115,000 contract to modify the long guns did lead to a few raised eyebrows on the Spokane City Council.

But they signed off on the spending after agency officials explained that the suppressors only muffle the sounds of shots fired by police.

Police and gun enthusiasts frequently point out that suppressors are not “silencers” like you see in the movies.

Other agencies that wish to make a similar move should be prepared for some paperwork.

The adoption of suppressors requires completing paperwork with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The good news is that the suppressors come tax free.

LE agencies get a break on the $200 tax imposed by the law that individuals must pay.

And obviously police go to the front of the line in terms of the bureaucracy, according to Jason Chudy, a spokesman for the ATF in Seattle.

Protecting the hearing of cops and civilians alike is a great idea and all, but some say suppressors on long guns is not a good look for law enforcement

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he looked into doing something like this. But he was naturally and logically worried about how citizens might react.

“Those are serious concerns. Especially in this day and age of things that are going on with the public and law enforcement,”  Knezovich said.

But what the public might not understand about all this is that it’s largely about workers comp claims.

Five officers in the Spokane police department have filed claims with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries for hearing loss as a result of gunfire, according to the Agency.

Maj. Kevin King filed a claim with the state after a shooting in August 2013 left him with hearing damage. King now uses hearing aids in both ears. “I had immediate, significant pain,” King said. “It’s not only officers we’re concerned about, but other people who are around too.”

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