This story from reuters.com, despite its misleading headline, offers some interesting facts regarding suppressors and crime. It notes that more than a dozen states have legalized silencers for hunting since 2011, and that gun rights advocates are “pressing Congress to repeal a Depression-era law that requires a months-long screening process for silencer buyers—far more scrutiny than gun buyers face.”
The story is, of course, referring to the National Firearms Act of 1934, which imposes a statutory excise tax on he manufacture and transfer of certain firearms, and mandates the registration of those firearms and components like suppressors and short-barreled rifles (SBRs).
The story points out that the number of suppressors registered with the federal government has more than doubled, from 360,534 in March 2012 to 792,282 in February of 2015, according to the ATF. The story also says that suppressors are rarely used in crimes, despite their mostly Hollywood-created reputation as a hitman’s tool. According to a 10-year study published by the Western Criminology Review, suppressors were involved in 30 to 40 of the 75,000 federal criminal cases filed each year. The study found only two federal cases involving a suppressor used in a murder.
Despite their increased popularity, suppressors don’t seem to be finding their way to the streets, with police in Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia, two high crime cities in the eastern U.S., reporting that they haven’t seen any used in crimes, the story says.
As industry officials point out, a handgun equipped with a suppressor is large and difficult to conceal, reducing its appeal to average criminals.
The story also points out that the Hollywood myth of a suppressor that makes a 9mm sound like a staple gun is merely a thing of fiction.
The story says: “They can help muffle the sound of a bullet leaving the barrel of a gun, but they can’t do anything about the crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier.”
“These things aren’t what gun control advocates think they are,” said Knox Williams, head of the American Suppressor Association, in the story.
Currently, Arizona Representative Matt Salmon has introduced legislation that would replace the suppressor screening process with a simpler background check. Called the Hearing Protection Act, it has attracted 51 co-sponsors and support from the NRA and other groups.