On August 1st, according to an American Silencer Association press release posted at AmmoLand.com (which is becoming our go-to source for press releases, as they post them pretty much unfiltered), two states moved closer to model silencer laws.
In Arizona, where the instruments are already legal to possess subject to Federal law, they became legal for hunting game animals (they were also apparently legal for hunting pests and varmints already). But the real news came in liberal Minnesota, where generally anti-gun Governor Mark Dayton was persuaded to sign a bill allowing Class III dealers to stock and sell silencers, albeit only to government entities.
One can rail about the shortcomings of the Minnesota law, but that’s shortsighted. It’s progress in the right direction. Indeed, it’s a step towards normalization of an important capability that will save hearing, reduce noise pollution, and make shooting safer all round, and substantially more pleasant, even for those members of the community that choose not to participate. It’s only a matter of time before Dayton or a successor is looking at a bill legalizing the devices for his state’s citizens.
In several European countries silencers have long been accepted for hunting and sport shooting of all kinds, for the same reason that some European light plans sport large mufflers — after experimenting with total war in the 20th Century, they like their peace and quiet these days.
In the US, silencers were all but banned by the clumsy National Firearms Act of 1934. The law is a nightmare of complexity and unintended consequences, hastily passed in the Constitutionally illiterate period of the New Deal in a response to Prohibition-era predations of organized crime. It’s hard for users, and the ATF is hopelessly bad and pathetically slow at managing the paperwork. For all that, we’re unaware of silencer registration ever solving a crime, or a legally owned silencer having been used in a crime (paperwork violations, perhaps. Crimes, no).
The military and police are exempted from these restrictions, and while silencers have been slow to catch on with general-purpose forces, US special operations forces have used quite a few variants of them for over 65 years, and they’re now widely available to SOF as part of the SOPMOD kit, and available to GPF as an integral part of the M110 semi-automatic sniper system. (We’re not sure on the M2010 sniper system, whether the suppressor is an SOF-only or all-hands accessory).
The Federal Government’s law is only one restriction on silencers (also called suppressors and, in some countries, mufflers). States, of course, have every right to make the legal arrangements they wish vis-a-vis silencers under their police and plenary powers. Thirty-nine states including Arizona permit them, some with addtional restrictions vis-a-vis the feds, and eleven states ban them. In recent years, the number of ban states has been steadily rolled back, and one factor is the trade group, the ASA. Read their press release at AmmoLand and their website here for more information.