As it stands, getting a suppressor for a rifle or pistol is a complicated, expensive endeavor. Before you are even allowed to purchase one, you must get permission from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, which involves submitting an application that requires a passport photo and a fingerprint card along with a $200 fee. The application also has to be signed by your local police chief. If everything goes well, in a few months you'll get the permit and then will be able to buy a suppressor, from a Class 3 FFL dealer. Why? Because any device designed to muffle or suppress the report of a firearm are treated as Title II devices by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and require registration.
A new bill introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) would do away with all of that, removing suppressors from the jurisdiction of the NFA.
The motivation behind the legislation, called the Hearing Protection Act, is the fact that millions of hunters and shooters are damaging their hearing—damage that could be mitigated by the use of a suppressor, according to this story from outdoorhub.com.
"The American Suppressor Association believes that citizens should not have to pay a tax to protect their hearing while exercising their Second Amendment rights," said Knox Williams, president and executive director of the ASA, in a press release. "The removal of suppressors from the National Firearms Act has been our ultimate goal since day one. For months, we have worked alongside Rep. Salmon's office and the National Rifle Association to craft this legislation. Although we recognize that introducing this bill is the first step in what will be a lengthy process to change federal law, we look forward to working with Rep. Salmon and the NRA to advance and ultimately enact this common-sense legislation."
Instead of the arduous Form 4 process, buyers would only have to complete the standard 4473 Form, as if they were buying a firearm, before taking possession of a suppressor.
An important provision of the legislation would allow for federal preemption of suppressor regulation over state laws, which would keep suppressors legal in states whose laws specifically mention that only those registered under the NFA are allowed, according to this story from guns.com.
Another provision would refund all NFA tax money paid on suppressor transfers after October 22, 2015.
As we have reported before, legal suppressor production and ownership has exploded in the past few years, with a growth of 39 percent since 2014 with 792,282 registered suppressors on the books.
"While we don't expect the HPA to pass overnight, we are confident that our continued educational and outreach initiatives will ultimately lead to the passage of this critical legislation," Williams said in a release. "The Hearing Protection Act is the culmination of our efforts to enact pro-suppressor reform on both the state and federal levels."