At the SHOT Show I sat next to an Englishman who wrote for a UK hunting magazine. We talked about gun laws in Blighty and in the US, and the subject turned to gun mufflers, AKA silencers or suppressors. I was interested to learn that mufflers were relatively easy to obtain in the UK, and were in fact encouraged by the police. Having a suppressor for your rifle is considered, well, polite. A way to reduce noise pollution and avoid disturbing the neighbors. Virtually all air guns have suppressors. My new British friend turned to me and said: “I never have understood the United States regulation of suppressors? What is the purpose of making them so hard to obtain or own?” . . .
I could not answer him. The best speculation that I have found is that there was some mention of suppressors being used for poaching. Why else put suppressors in the same category as machine guns? But that’s only a guess. I have never seen the purpose mentioned in the arguments for the National Firearms Act of 1934.
It’s easy to see the supposed purpose of the now completely irrational ban on short barreled rifles and shotguns. When one of the major reasons for the original act was to make handguns illegal for most people, and registered and licensed for the remaining few, it at least made sense at the time to make the conversion of rifles and shotguns into pistols illegal. But gun mufflers?
Maybe it was just legislative strategy, a trade-off item that was available to be taken out to allow some other provision to be included. Maybe it was simply that the Roosevelt regime grabbing for all the power it could. Likely, we will never know. Clearly, it was one of the greatest public health blunders by the federal government. Millions have lost hearing because of the extreme regulatory and financial barriers placed on gun suppressors.
Hard as it is to believe, Europe is ahead of the United States when it has come to the use of mufflers. The Finnish Supreme Court has ruled that it is a constitutional right to make, buy, sell, trade and use gun mufflers in that country. One would think, with the Second Amendment in the United States Constitution, the same would apply here.
As my British friend observed, it just doesn’t make any sense.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.