Suppressors and Hunters

By author of Realtree Outdoor News

You could say that because of the increasing popularity of hunting combined with the need to hunt in urban areas, a once almost-outlawed accessory is making a comeback--but not without a struggle.

Georgia just passed a generous expansion of gun rights into law this spring, which allows all hunting rifles to be fitted with suppressors as of July 1, 2014.

But here’s the problem: if you want to buy a suppressor for your hog rifle, you probably won’t get it by July.

Why is that, you ask?

Because, thanks to the National Firearms Act (The NFA) of 1934, considered by many gun enthusiasts to be the first effort by our government to control guns, you will have to fill out a BATF Form 4 and pay a tax of $200 per suppressor. You also have to send a fingerprint card and a recent photo of yourself. Currently the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms cannot keep up with the requests for these transfers. In fact, it is woefully behind the curve.

We’re in this conundrum with suppressors because President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to curb gun violence (think Tommy guns, Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd) by taxing the dickens out of potential legal gun owners, and this new law levied a whopping $200 charge on each sale of listed guns. According to Public Law, in regard to the NFA, “The term ‘firearm’ means a shotgun or rifle having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length, or any other weapon, except a pistol or revolver, from which a shot is discharged by an explosive if such weapon is capable of being concealed on the person, or a machine gun, and includes a muffler or silencer for any firearm whether or not such firearm is included within the foregoing definition.”

In 1939, a federal court heard the pivotal Miller v. United States case and ruled that the NFA violated the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling, because the clever feds decided to regulate the taxation of NFA firearms, which the Supremes say is within the federal authority, rather than the possession of NFA firearms, which would have violated the 2nd A (Sound familiar? The Roberts’ court recently saddled us with ObamaCare using the same reasoning regarding an unconstitutional law that suddenly became OK because it was presented as a taxation scheme).

The NFA has been amended several times, and rarely to the advantage of a gun owner. That is why when Georgia decides to join ranks with 31 other states and allow suppressors on firearms for hunting, it’s a big deal. 

And it should be, since more than 80,0000 suppressors are sold annually in the US. The fact that suppressors are so anathema to the anti-gunners in our country is amazing, considering that several European nations (those folks that the antis in our country dearly want to emulate in all things social and governmental) allow suppressors without regulation.

"Thirty states allow for full game hunting, two for varmint (Louisiana and Montana). There are 39 states which currently allow ownership," said Knox Williams, president and exectuive director of the American Silencer Association.

The American Suppressor Association (ASA) is a registered non-profit trade association with the mission to “identify and advocate for the common interest of the suppressor industry.” It held its first media event last week, at Atterbury Shooting Complex in Edinburgh, Ind. Several gun writers shot everything from .22s to a $3,000 customized Glock 19 to Daniel Defense ARs to H&K full-auto .300 Blackout rifles. The guns came equipped with suppressors made by SilencerCo, Advanced Armament Corporation and GemTech. We wore hearing protection because the range still had live firing at the other end, but our end didn’t have a lot of noise--except for some oohs and ahs and a few hoops and hollers.

According to the ASA, there are more than 75,000 Form 4 applications waiting for approval at the NRA Branch of the ATF. Do the math. That’s $15 million. To date, there are only 15 examiners to process these forms, and the current wait averages between 9 and 12 months.

The ASA also is working to get "shall sign" legislation in motion. Shall sign requires chief law enforcement officers to sign off on NFA applications within an appropriate time, unless a person is not allowed to own one.

Why would you want to own a suppressor for hunting?

  • Recoil reduction and accuracy enhancement: A suppressor can cut down on flinch, or even stop the bad habit of closing your eyes before taking a shot.
  • Hearing protection: How many hunters do you know who actually wear any hearing protection when they’re hunting? As hunters, we want to hear our environment and respond to it, while not endangering our ears.
  • Reduced muzzle rise: This means you can get back on target faster if you need to take another shot.
  • Neighborhood friendly: Of course, suppressors work to your advantage if you’re hunting in or near noise-sensitive areas.

The ASA says it aims to change the number from 39 states that allow suppressors to 50.  

Find out more about laws in your state regarding suppressor legality and ownership