(October 29, 2015) For over a decade The Firearms Coalition has been railing for removal of the ridiculous federal restrictions on firearms mufflers, commonly referred to as suppressors, and legally classified as silencers. Back in 2006 and 2007 we were actively working with the office of Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) on legislation to remove silencers from the restrictions of the National Firearms Act, but those efforts were sidelined by Senator Craig's personal problems. Since then, an entire organization dedicated to this objective, the American Suppressor Association, has come into being, and now Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) has introduced H.R.3799, to remove silencers from the NFA and treat them like firearms.
While we'd rather see silencers completely deregulated, moving them from the NFA to the Gun Control Act, or GCA, would be a significant improvement. The idea that you can get a ticket if your car or motorcycle is too loud, but can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and subject to a $10,000 fine for having any sort of noise reducer for a firearm, is beyond ridiculous. But that has been the standard since passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act. Under the NFA, any device that muffles or in any way reduces the sound made by a gun is highly regulated, taxed, and controlled. A silencer is generally nothing more than a metal tube with some baffles or washers in it to slow and redirect hot gasses, but they are treated just like machine guns under the NFA.
It doesn't matter whether the suppressor is attached to a firearm or even if you have no firearm to attach it to. Worse yet, every part or piece of a silencer is illegal to possess unless it is properly registered, taxed, and accompanied by the proper paperwork. This has led the BATF to declare that possession of steel wool scouring pads can be a felony since the steel wool could be used as baffling in a silencer. They have also declared that plastic noise dissipaters integrated into air rifles and BB guns are silencers under the law and require registration and payment of the $200 tax. Recently, the BATF decreed that certain muzzles with construction too similar to the internals of a silencer must be registered as silencers, even though these devices actually increase the gun's noise levels around the shooter.
Meanwhile, in most of Europe, where firearms are much more tightly regulated, suppressors are generally not regulated at all and their use is encouraged, or even required, as a courtesy to neighbors and a safety feature to protect the hearing of shooters and their companions, including hunting dogs and horses.
Hearing loss is the single most common firearm-related injury. It is the number one disability reported by the Veterans Administration and is a common complaint among hunters and shooters. Even scrupulous use of earplugs and muffs cannot completely prevent the cumulative damage of frequent shooting, and plugs and muffs can themselves be an impediment to safety by blocking sounds or commands the shooter needs to hear.
The only justifications for restrictions on silencers are fictional fears propagated by popular media. The devices do not make guns of any significant power silent;. they merely make them less loud, and less likely to cause hearing damage. They have never been popular among gang-bangers, robbers, or street thugs because they are typically bulky, unwieldy, and add complication to the firearm, impacting handling and potentially impeding reliability if they are not properly installed and maintained. The popularity of these devices, even under the current regulations that add significant expense and frustrating red tape, has been growing exponentially over the past few years, and they are now legal for use in the hunting fields in a majority of states. But eyen with their growing popularity, and readily accessible information on how to construct a functional suppressor from simple materials such as lawn mower mufflers, automotive oil filters, aluminum flashlights, or even plastic soda bottles, the use of any sort of silencer in crime remains virtually non-existent.
Removing silencers from the list of items regulated by the NFA is the most common-sense gun safety measure we have seen proposed in decades. The Firearms Coalition strongly supports H.R.3799 and urges Congress to take quick action to bring this bill to the floor for record votes.
Like Representative Rob Bishop's (R-UT) H.R.2710, the Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act, Rep. Salmon's H.R.3799, the Hearing Protection Act, not only moves the debate in the right direction, they both constitute clear choices for politicians and candidates that can help GunVoters distinguish friends from foes.
Both of these proposals have been included in The Firearms Coalition's legislative agenda as far back as 2006, and we are thrilled to see them finally introduced in Congress. Now the push must be to get record votes on these bills. Even though there is little to no chance that the current President will sign either, getting members of Congress and the Presidential candidates on record as either supporting or opposing them is critical.
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