Silencers are also Illegal

A threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor
or silencer. A silencer is useful to assassins but clearly has no
purpose for sportsmen. Silencers are also illegal.

(Emphasis in the original.)
From Mass Produced Mayhem, a pamphlet published by the Brady Campaign saying why “assault weapons” are evil and should be banned. This particular part is located on Page 21, as part of a list of “combat features” that certain guns have that “have no sporting value”.
While the entire document is pretty much bunk, this particular bit stands out to me due to my ownership of several firearms with threaded barrels and a silencer.
Silencers are not illegal. In case the bold print wasn’t enough, let me repeat: silencers are NOT ILLEGAL. They are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and by state laws. In a few states, ownership or use of silencers may be banned outright, or so heavily restricted that they are effectively banned. However, most states either have very light regulations or defer to federal laws.
The process to legally acquire one is the same for acquiring any other NFA-regulated item: payment of a $200 tax, addition to the NFA registry, local police approval, federal (ATF) approval, a detailed background check, a full set of fingerprints, etc. All in all, it takes about a month to get all the paperwork sorted out.
That said, what does the Brady Campaign hope to stop if they banned guns with threaded barrels? Hypothetically, if silencers were illegal, what would a ban on threads accomplish? It would already be illegal to own silencers…would making their mounting point “more illegal” somehow reduce the already extremely-rare (to the point of being unheard of outside of movies) criminal use of silencers?
Silencers have plenty of perfectly legitimate purposes, both for sportsmen and ordinary shooters. For example, a hunter could use a silencer so as not to alarm other game animals within earshot (thus being polite to other hunters by not scaring away their game). A hunter might also find a silencer useful if hunting in lands that are within earshot of communities, so as not to annoy neighbors. Not needing to carry bulky earmuffs (which reduce one’s perception of the surrounding areas, and thus limit the ability to detect game animals) is beneficial, as well as reducing the risk of hearing damage. Indeed, in many areas in Europe, the use of suppressors is encouraged for sportsmen and hunters for these very reasons.
Ordinary shooters find silencers to be quite handy as well: I find them excellent for teaching new shooters, as there is no loud noise emitted when the gun is fired. This allows new shooters to get introduced to the sport without developing flinching and other negative behaviors. Arizona gets quite hot, and earmuffs can make one’s ears quite uncomfortable (hot, sweaty, etc.), so a silencer is beneficial by making earmuffs unnecessary while keeping noise at safe levels. Many guns are extremely loud, and by using a silencer, I can reduce the noise emitted by my guns, so as not to annoy fellow shooters at the range, those living near the range (granted, the range where I shoot is extremely remote, and nobody lives around it for miles in all directions), and so on. It’s simply a matter of being neighborly.
Silencer-using assassins are all but unheard of outside of hollywood movies. Those few assassins that do exist are likely to be trained and operated by governments…governments who don’t really give a damn about (or are exempt from) US firearms laws. While high quality silencers require the use of a machine shop, the knowledge and equipment needed is minimal and an amatuer could construct a workable, durable silencer in the time of a few hours. Threading a firearm barrel is even easier. Flimsy, novelty, less effective (but by no means less regulated) silencers can be made with homemade equipment and no machine shop in an hour or two.
That said, this proposal isn’t about the legality or illegality of silencers, it’s simply about their mounting points. I’m curious if such a law, if implemented, would ban the use of quick-disconnect lugs or other non-threaded mounting devices for various muzzle accessories?

13 thoughts on “Silencers are also Illegal”

  1. The whole issue is a movie-plot threat. The idea that there are secret cadres of assassins among governments or terrorist organizations is pretty far-fetched. Assassination is historically more of a mission rather than a profession. I believe the trend for political killings is more towards bombs rather than exquisitely trained secret agents with state of the art gear.

  2. I agree. Even if silencer-equipped assassins were a problem in the country, it’s unlikely that even the harshest restrictions or outright bans would have much effect on such assassins.
    It’s exceedingly rare for ordinary criminals, gang members, and so forth to bother with anything more than the most basic types of firearms, and I can’t recall a single incident where a violent crime was committed with a silencer.

  3. You have to be careful when explaining things to beginners. In most if not all states hunting with a suppressor IS ILLEGAL.
    And acquainting beginners with suppressors it is important to be sure and include a block of instruction about “Just because this weapon doesn’t make much noise it’s still a firearm”. I like to use the old standby of shooting a suppressed weapon loaded with hollow points into a jug of water it make the point stick home.

  4. Claymore,
    Everyone I’ve taken to the range is quite aware of the fact that guns have the potential to be dangerous, even if they are a bit muffled. If there’s the least bit of confusion in this regard, I make reference to cars: cars have mufflers, yet this doesn’t affect the car’s ability to go fast (mechanics: please don’t flay me).
    Very few of the people I take to the range are interested in hunting, so I don’t really mention it much. They just want to learn to shoot, be safe, and have fun. There can be a lot to take in all at once, so I try to keep extraneous information to a minimum.
    Speaking of hunting, I found it interesting that Arizona prohibits using silencers while hunting, even if one is just shooting vermin like rats, prairie dogs, etc. I’m not really sure why they prohibits silencers while hunting larger game like deer and elk, but the prohibition on vermin control is a bit over the top.

  5. I’ve heard and read in several, different, unrelated places, that suppressors are more or less expected on European rifle ranges and in some countries sold over the counter.
    dc

  6. many of you seem to be very uninformed of many of these rules.
    yes hunting with a silencer is illegal in arizona and many states, due to the fact that it does not give the game fair chance to get away because (reason why its called hunting, not killing). as for silencers/suppressors there are good and bad traits to them, yes it is more neighborly to use sound wise but also keep in mind that it multiplies the opportunity for danger (no matter where your at, even gun ranges) because the fact that its so quiet, it makes the situation harder for people to locate where people are shooting from and could possibly put themselves unknowingly in danger. and by the way a muffler/exhaust has a major effect on cars performance (prevents block from warping, creates back pressure for performance applications, and helps the car burn all the fuel cleanly), my point is know the facts behind your analogies so they actually make sense.

    1. Hi Corey, I’ve got responses to a few of your points:
      Hunting: Nearly every hunting cartridge I’ve seen is supersonic out of ordinary-length barrels. The bullet will have struck the game before it could hear the bullet coming. Since suppressors only muffle the muzzle noise and leave the bullet supersonic, the use of suppressors would have no effect on the ability of game to detect the shot and try to get away.
      Safety: You raise a good point. Of course, shooters should always have safety as the foremost thought in their mind, regardless of how loud their firearms are.

      1. Silencer sales are legal in the state of Arizona. So stop your crying. If you would read about the AFFA “Arizona Freedom Firearms Act” you would problably own one right now and not have to worry about some POS fed knocking on your door at dark 30 wantint to see your suppressor. With that said paperwork is ALOT faster and ALOT cheaper. No paying the BATFE fed [email protected] tax stamps hahaha!

        1. Er, what? I *do* already own a suppressor in accordance with the NFA. The paperwork took only about a month, and was pretty trivial.
          Failure to pay the NFA tax stamp will dramatically increase the odds that the feds will show up at “dark 30” to see your suppressor and the paperwork.
          It’s nice that Arizona has passed the AFFA, but Federal law is still supreme to state law and Federal law requires compliance with the NFA. If you don’t like that, try changing the NFA. Until then the number of “Firearms Freedom Acts” passed by states is irrelevant.
          I cannot in good conscience recommend or condone anyone avoiding the NFA in their attempt to own a suppressor, as this is in direct violation of Federal law.

  7. Forgot to mention; several states have passed the Freedom Firearms Act started by Montana “MFFA” and cloned their laws.

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