Guns and hearing aids apparently mix

A gun advocacy group is opposing legislation allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter because the measure is sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and it might, somehow, infringe on the rights of hunters who purchase hearing-enhancement devices to track their prey.

I’m not making this up. In a letter earlier this month to members of Congress, Gun Owners of America executive director Erich Pratt said Bass Pro Shops carry a number of devices designed to help hunters detect the presence of game. The devices aren’t marketed as hearing aids, but they apparently work much like them.

“There’s a pretty good chance that these devices would fall within Warren’s definition of ‘over-the-counter hearing aid.’ Which would mean that a new federal bureaucracy would be in charge of regulating hunting,” Pratt wrote. “Were Warren less of an enemy of the Second Amendment, we might give more credibility to the argument that we were protected by the ‘perceived …hearing impairment’ language of the Warren bill. But she isn’t. So we don’t.”

The hearing aid legislation, which is cosponsored by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, is opposed by the six hearing aid manufacturers, who say it is dangerous to allow people to self-diagnose and treat hearing problems. Supporters, however, say the high cost of hearing aids is preventing most Americans from purchasing the devices. This debate would normally follow predictable Washington lines — between those seeking to protect their monopoly and those seeking a piece of the action — but the involvement of the gun lobby adds an unusual twist.

In a followup fundraising appeal, Pratt said lobbying by Gun Owners of America was having some success in the House, with the help of Republican Reps. Richard Hudson of North Carolina and Greg Walden of Oregon, in getting language inserted in the bill alleviating any potential impact on guns. But Pratt warned that the language has not been agreed to in the Senate.

“Hence, the bigger question is this: If Congress is going to protect people’s hearing, how about deregulating suppressors?”



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