Silencers have become a significant segment of the firearms business and it’s growing every day. With the Hearing Protection Act on the horizon it seems everyone and their brother is making a suppressor and getting ready for the (hoped for) flood of new can owners.
For those who don’t want to pay through the nose for a gun muffler (or really just want to do it themselves) there are kits available with all the parts you need to cobble together your own. You just need to file the requisite paperwork and drill some holes. But it appears that the ATF has just shut down one of the providers of such kits.
SD Tactical Arms in Prescott, Arizona had been selling “solvent trap” kits. These are ostensibly designed to be fitted on the muzzle of a firearm to catch any solvent leaking out during cleaning. The kits are completely enclosed, with no central passage through which a projectile might pass.
But according to a letter from the ATF posted on SD Tactical’s Facebook page the ATF believes that these items are 100% legal to own.
The stated intent of a solvent trap is to catch and trap gun cleaning solvent during bore cleaning operations commonly performed on firearms. Solvent traps do attach to the muzzle of a firearm but do not have any design features intended to allow a bullet to pass through them. Since as originally manufactured they are not intended to silence, muffle or diminish the report of a portable firearm they are not silencers as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(24) and thus also are not firearms as defined in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(3) or 26 U.S.C. 5845(a)(7).
However, if the solvent trapped was redesigned or utilized to assemble a device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm or if intent was demonstrated to use the device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, the solvent trap would be classified as a “firearm silencer” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(24) and as a “firearm” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)(C) and 26 U.S.C. § 5845(a)(7).
Despite that apparent approval, the ATF has shut down SD Tactical’s solvent trap business as of January 25th citing “constructive intent,” a regulatory concept used by the ATF which says possession of the materials to produce a regulated item is the same as possession of the actual item. Here’s SD Tactical’s statement:
As of today the ATF shut down our business of selling solvent traps. This is 99% of our income. They have put 3 Veterans, my wife and son out of work. They said I can’t sell freeze plugs. NAPA can’t even sell them to us because they are a suppressor part. They said all I can sell is complete suppressor’s. That is what we do for now until I get some legal help to fight these vauge laws or opinions. The issue is NFA items. He said tubes and freeze plugs were suppressor parts. Would that mean if you have a shotgun and a hacksaw you have a sawed off shotgun? If you own a AR isn’t that a potential SBR?
My plea for help is to make this Viral to the Trump admin, the Trump family and such. I have been put in the street over mindless opinions. I had talked to the ATF in the past and they had no issues. Today they shut us down.
Despite what you may think, the ATF has historically been a relatively reasonable entity to work with. If you ask them a question, they issue an opinion letter and that remains the official opinion until there’s a change in the underlying law.
Recently, however, the ATF has been completely unreliable in adhering to their own opinion letters. Despite numerous letters stating that the ATF believes a “pistol arm brace” does not make an AR pistol an SBR no matter how it is used, the ATF reversed its own decision two years ago and confusion has reigned ever since. The SD Tactical situation looks like another such reversal.
While the closure of a “solvent trap” business is troubling, the larger issue is the unreliability of issued ATF opinions. If the firearms business and the public can’t rely on the agency’s opinion letters to clarify the often complicated web of gun control laws, we might see a real world Henry Bowman in the near future.