In introducing a bill earlier this year that would ban firearm silencers, a sitting U.S. congresswoman stated that the devices "have no legal application."
On the surface, this might seem like a simple case of misinformation, but it's actually something bigger and more dangerous: a crucial ingredient in a playbook used to enable regulatory overreach and to weaken constitutional rights. Indeed, the restrictions on firearm suppressors illustrate many hallmarks of overly restrictive, unconstitutional regulation.
In the face of such overreach, it is tempting to get behind groundbreaking pro-Second Amendment laws, such as a new suppressor law in Texas. But as we'll see, the quick fix is unlikely to be a lasting, satisfactory solution.
History has shown us that mistruths are often used as a cudgel to restrict constitutional rights. And they are usually not as simple to refute as the one above. Suppressors, also known as silencers, are safety devices used by thousands of Americans to protect their hearing while hunting or target shooting and reduce environmental noise pollution. They certainly are not intended for "criminals trying to avoid detection," as one ill-informed senator put it. The noise of a suppressed firearm is typically 115-140 dB — comparable to a jackhammer on concrete or a jet engine. Hollywood has made fools of nearly everyone unfamiliar with firearms.
Mistruths go hand-in-hand with fearmongering. Drawing a link between something you don't like and crime is a go-to tactic, but the reality is that the use of suppressors in crimes is so statistically insignificant that it isn't even reported in public crime statistics. Sadly, lies are often repeated, even by those who know better, because they make unreasonable regulation seem reasonable.
Another tool is indirect obstruction. There are a number of overt federal restrictions on the books against silencers — a $200 tax, paperwork, and background checks, for instance. But there is also an average wait time of 3-12 months, with any outliers being on the longer end of the wait. There is not a mandated minimum wait time nor an established maximum.
It’s natural for law-abiding gun owners to be dissuaded from owning a device that protects their hearing due to the sheer amount of hoops they have to jump through. Thus, when the onerous rules already on the books aren't enough, Second Amendment opponents can pursue indirect tactics — delay, confusion — to obstruct the rights of citizens.
A third hallmark of regulatory overreach is when local norms and restrictions are forced on the whole country, usually with federal backing. Take other recent suppressor news, the "HEAR" Act, as an example. Although silencers are already illegal in New Jersey, a representative and senator from the Garden State introduced this bill to make it unlawful for citizens to import, sell, manufacture, transfer or possess silencers. Not satisfied to be in the minority, opponents of the Second Amendment will gladly force their rules on the rest of the country under cover of “regulating interstate commerce.”
So when overreaching regulators misinform, obstruct, and steamroll the will of the people, what hope is there?
A bill that recently cleared the Texas state legislature tries to chart a way. But while the bill's intention and direction are spot on, it puts ordinary citizens on perilous ground against the federal government and doesn't hold out much hope of serving as a lasting solution.
By way of background, the Suppressor Freedom Act does several things: First, it clears Texas' restrictions on silencer ownership, which was previously tied to federal laws. Second, it prohibits state resources from being used to enforce federal restrictions on silencers. Lastly — critically — the bill claims that silencers made and sold in Texas are exempt from federal regulations, given the Constitution's Commerce Clause.
This is an attempt to fight back against onerous federal regulations with a potentially monumental new precedent. But unfortunately, it relies on citizens risking violations of federal law, counting on court decisions to vindicate them later — the chances of this are mixed at best. In sum, it's an end-around.
In the end, the only way that Americans will be able to roll back unjustified or insensible restrictions on silencers and other freedoms will be by winning battles on the same battlefield as always: in Congress and at the national level. That requires hard work — correcting deceitful rhetoric, rolling back misguided laws and regulations, and building broad legislative coalitions. But if we want liberty that lasts, we have to do it the right way.
I wonder if sending a short missive to legislators, giving them bullet points to correct the incorrect statements they have made in the media would help. F'rinstance,
Silencers reduce the noise output of a gunshot to the approximate level of a jackhammer.
Silencers are legal for hunting vermin and invasive species in X# (of states) and otherwise legal in Y#.
The use of legally manufactured and obtained silencers has (as far as I know) never been documented by the FBI Crime Database (it should be verified before the letter is sent).
Any statement to the contrary to the facts in the letter after a 2 week waiting period should be published alongside a copy of the letter, stating the fact that this legislator is directly spreading disinformation.
The effort should be unified and have enough credibility that the legislators should fear being shamed for disinformation by the source.
With three suppressors locked up with no end in site with a full year waiting and six hundred dollars in tax stamps I ended up buying a thirty caliber air rifle and moderator setup. The entire setup was 1500 bucks delivered to my door. I now hunt in my urban greenbelt.
Teaching people to shoot is not hard. Getting them to train and practice is the difficult part. Silenced weapons take some of the bark and bite out of already expensive day at the range and promote others to "get into the game." Besides, a $1000 suppressor is a lot cheaper than a $5000 pair of hearing aids.
I have ordered two, one for 9mm and one for 5.56. Simply because, to protect my hearing as well as others and most of all Not to annoy my neighbors or not cause undo attention on my self.
Sincerely DB JONES US Navy Veteran.
Hope you got a good one for your 556. I have an AAC on a 16" 556/223 and that sucker still hurts my ears without protection. I all but stopped shooting my 223 for that reason. I am all in on my 300 and my PCCs. I can shoot all day, no muffs and not be deaf. :-) These morons buying 6" and 10" 223/556 are morons...those are RIDICULOUSLY loud.
Thank you for your service, David, and thank you for being part of the Silencer Shop family. 9mm and 556 are great rounds to be suppressed, and your ears will be at a much lower risk of hearing damage. - Chase