Most adults in America can legally own suppressors.
Silencers are legal in 42 states, and millions of law-abiding gun owners currently own and use silencers.
If you can legally purchase a firearm, there is a good chance that you can also purchase a suppressor. The basic requirements to legally buy a silencer are:
You must be at least 21 years old.
You must live in a state that allows possession.
You must not have any felony convictions or otherwise be a “prohibited person.”
There are also instances where people other than you (the original purchaser of the suppressor) can use or possess the silencer with varying degrees of freedom. The filing method you chose when you submitted your ATF Form 4 dictates who else can use your suppressor.
How your chosen filing method impacts who can use your suppressor:
If you filed your suppressor application as an individual, you cannot lend your suppressor to anyone who is not physically present and under your direct supervision.
Single Shot Trust / Single Shot Unlimited Trusts
If you’re using a Silencer Shop Single Shot Trust or our Single Shot Unlimited Trust, you can use an addendum to add trustees.
The trustees, or responsible persons, you permit can access and possess the NFA items the trust owns - so long as they are not otherwise legally prohibited.
Traditional NFA Trust
When using a Silencer Shop Traditional NFA trust, your trustees listed will be allowed to use the silencers or other NFA items on the trust, just like with Single Shot trusts.
If you filed your suppressor application as a corporation, officers and bona fide employees of that corporation are allowed to use the silencer for the corporation’s business purposes (as opposed to personal use).
You’ll need to be mindful of the distinction between true employees and independent contractors, and you’ll need to ensure your corporate entity complies with other applicable laws to maintain its corporate existence.
You may need to consult legal counsel to ensure your corporation is created and maintained correctly.
Who Cannot Use My Suppressor?
There are disqualifiers that prohibit a person from using or possessing NFA items.
The Gun Control Act (GCA) classifies these individuals as “Prohibited Persons.”
A prohibited person, pursuant to the GCA, includes anyone who:
Is under indictment for or convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
Is a fugitive from justice;
Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);
Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
Is an illegal alien;
Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
Has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
Is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
Has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Note: Some of these categories are currently being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional, but ATF still enforces them.
State Laws Regarding Suppressors
The legal landscape for suppressor use varies across the United States.
Some states welcome them with open arms, while others impose restrictions or outright bans.
Note: Even if your state is on this list, be sure that your local laws allow for silencer ownership.
Middle Ground States
41 of the 42 states above also allow suppressors while hunting.
The one stand-out state that allows silencer ownership but prohibits hunting with silencers is Connecticut.
The usual suspects: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. outright ban the ownership and use of silencers.
Certain states, such as Washington, allow possession of silencers but prohibit their use with certain weapons through so-called “assault weapon” statutes.
Suppressor Usage FAQ’s
Can your spouse use your suppressor?
Assuming your spouse is not a prohibited person, they can use and possess the suppressor if they are a trustee of the trust the suppressor belongs to or a bona fide employee of the corporation that owns the suppressor.
If they do not qualify as a trustee or a bona fide employee, they may still use and possess the item in your presence and under your direct supervision (the suppressor must remain under your control).
Hey Kareem, if the silencer is owned by a trust, she could be added and would be able to possess and use the item outside of your presence. If the silencer was filed as an individual, only you and the people under your direct supervision can use the suppressor. - Chase
Can my minor age son legally use my silencer at the range with me? The silencer is registered to me in a gun trust. My minor is listed as a trustee but only when he turns 18 since because the law does not permit a trustee to be active while still a minor. Based on the above guidance in this posting and some other consulting info, I don't think he is legally allowed to use the silencer even with me at the range.
Hi Silencer Dad! We don't want to lead you down the wrong path, this is not legal advice and all legal advice should be provided by your legal counsel. That being said, as long as you are in the immediate space of the item while it is being used by your son or another individual (as long as it is not a PROHIBITED PERSON), your son is fine to use the item because you are still in possession of the item.