The usual news sources are reporting that Christopher Dorner had access to 10 silencers and “sniper rifles” among the weapons that have been recovered from the charred wreckage of the cabin in which he died earlier this week. The weapons weren’t displayed during the sheriff’s news conference, they simply had an array of weapons that were “similar” to those they say he had. Nevertheless, the media is bound to fixate on the silencers as proof that Dorner was evil, since, ipso facto, anyone with common sense knows silencers are only used by assassins and secret agents. And thus have no lawful purpose (/sarc). However, here’s one detail they won’t tell you: possession of a silencer in California is already illegal . . .
From the 2008 “Dangerous Weapons Control Law“:
ARTICLE 1. GENERAL PROVISIONS
12500. The term “silencer” as used in this chapter means any device or attachment of any kind designed, used, or intended for use in silencing, diminishing, or muffling the report of a firearm. The term “silencer” also includes any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for use in assembling a silencer or fabricating a silencer and any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication.
12501. Section 12520 shall not apply to, or affect, any of the following:
(a) The sale to, purchase by, or possession of silencers by agencies listed in Section 830.1, or the military or naval forces of this state or of the United States for use in the discharge of their official duties.
(b) The possession of silencers by regular, salaried, full-time peace officers who are employed by an agency listed in Section 830.1, or by the military or naval forces of this state or of the United States when on duty and when the use of silencers is authorized by the agency and is within the course and scope of their duties.
(c) The manufacture, possession, transportation, or sale or other transfer of silencers to an entity described in subdivision (a) by dealers or manufacturers registered under Chapter 53 (commencing with Section 5801) of Title 26 of the United States Code, and the regulations issued pursuant thereto.
ARTICLE 2. UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF FIREARM SILENCERS
12520. Any person, firm, or corporation who within this state possesses a silencer is guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison or by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or by both.
In other words, it’s perfectly legal for the police to have silencers, but average citizens are not permitted to protect their hearing.
When Dorner was a police officer, it was hunky dory for him to own such items. Well, when I say “own” I mean use in the course of his daily duties. He wasn’t supposed to take them home, according to California law. But the second he was fired, he lost his state-granted superpowers. He was once again a mere mortal, with all the attendant restrictions and limitations. And that made his ownership of those suppressors illegal.
Silencers are regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1935 and are subject to a $200 tax and ATF approval before they can be handed off to civilians. Their ownership is recorded in the ATF’s registry, and ATF officials can ask to inspect them any time they damned well feel like it. Click here for the full “Ask Foghorn” silencer treatment, but, in short, there are tons of hoops to jump through before you can get your grubby little civilian hands on a can and it’s not an easy process. And I sincerely doubt Dorner complied with any of those laws.
The best information we have is that Dorner bought the silencers using a trust — a legal entity that acts as owner of the items. But since corporations don’t have fingerprints or criminal histories, the background check usually accompanied by an NFA application was skipped. In addition, the trust would have to be registered in a state other than California and Dorner would have had to import the items into the state illegally.
And who wants to take bets on how long it will take California Democrats to start brewing up a “sniper rifle” ban bill? Yeah, leaving hunters alone my ass . . .