Suppressors: Doing Hard Time for Silence
Doc Rader 11.05.16
Ahhhh, suppressors. If you’ve ever shot with a suppressor, you know the awesomeness that it is. Sure, your weapon may get a little dirtier and you may inhale some noxious gasses, but you can reduce the use of sweaty ear protection. And of course, there’s also the “cool factor.”
Once you have gone through the process and received your stamp, you may wonder what the big deal is. As in why do you have to go through this tedious process? Suppressors must be really bad and must be used in all kinds of crimes to be under such scrutiny, right?
Ammoland recently published an article (written by Dean Weingarten) discussing some research from 2007 (done by Paul Clark for Western Criminology Review). The research, while a little dated, is still relevant and definitely interesting.
Did you know that mere possession of a silencer can result in a 40 year stint in prison for an otherwise minor charge? Yes, this would be for a drug charge with possession of an unlicensed suppressor. However, the simple possession of an unregistered suppressor is a mandatory 27 months in prison. Twenty-seven months. For a tube with some chambers to trap gasses.
Think about that for a minute. “What are you in for?”
“I had a suppressor. UNLICENSED.”
“Woah, man, I don’t want any trouble…”
Yeah, I’m not buying it either.
The research by Clark was prompted by a number of these over the top punishments. It is important to note that a number of states in the US have reduced (or eliminated) a number of the penalties in the past several years, but the penalties still apply federally.
So how often are suppressors used in crime? Not all that often it seems. Clark estimates 1 murder per year, and 2 assaults. The rest of the cases (totaling a shockingly high 30) are illegal possession during commission of another crime (mostly drug trafficking). So, for the 30ish cases a year, none of whose outcomes were changed by the possession of a suppressor, we have a bureaucratic nightmare with wait times several months to over a year before approval.
Not liking a law is not a reason to break it. However we have a great system here in the US for dealing with laws that are outdated and/or absurd. Currently working its way through Congress is the Hearing Protection Act, which would allow for the purchase of suppressors using the same instant check that is needed to purchase a firearm. Still dumb, since a suppressor is NOT actually a firearm, but certainly better than having to pay $200 and wait a year.
We have great access to all manner of firearms in the United States. We do, unfortunately, have some antiquated and inappropriate laws around items that you can easily access in other counties with little or no regulation.