Silencers remain a mystery in more ways than one.
Are they legal? Can you buy one? Can anyone else use it? Do they really silence a gunshot? Has Hollywood completely misrepresented yet another gun safety topic?
In this article, I want to focus on the fun part – using and shooting silencers, but first let’s take a quick look at how to legally get one. After all, you can’t shoot what you don’t have.
Buying a Silencer
As of this writing, 39 states have some legal provision for private silencer ownership. Yeah, I know, it’s none of the government’s business. And that leads me to the next point. Check out the American Suppressor Association. They’re a consortium of companies and individuals who are trying to fix ridiculous things like onerous regulation of mufflers for guns.
Since silencers fall under jurisdiction of the 1934 National Firearms act, there are two ways you can own one, both of which are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
First, you can fill out a Form 4, Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm. This method is a bit of a pain as you have to submit fingerprints and get a signature of a local law enforcement official. Some designated LE folks will sign your application, and some won’t. The dealer who sells you a silencer will help you navigate the process.
Second, you can set up a trust. That’s a legal entity that “purchases and owns” the silencer. The benefit is (for now away) that you don’t need fingerprints or a local law enforcement signature. Also, four individuals can be members of the trust and all will have legal access to use the silencers owned by the trust. The drawback is it will cost you some extra cash, but I think it’s worth it. I set up one with GunTrust.com, and it was a piece of cake.
With either method, you have to buy the silencer, pay for it, and then submit paperwork to the BATFE for approval along with a check for $200. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. The approval system is hopelessly backlogged, and the current peanut gallery in Washington doesn’t seem to be in any big hurry to fix the process. That’s one of the things the American Suppressor Association as well as the NSSF are working to change.
Note that I’ve been using the words silencer and suppressor interchangeably. The correct term for the invention is silencer, based on the name “Maxim Silencer” invented by Hiram Percy Maxim back in 1902. The industry called these devices suppressors for a long time but have recently shifted back to the term silencers.
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