Is It Legal To Own (And Use) Suppressors?

We've all seen those movies, right? The ones where the hero is standing in tense silence, screwing a long, black suppressor onto the end of his weapon as he listens for the footsteps of approaching assassins? Then a gunfight ensues with the weapons reduced to soft coughs, making the whole thing into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

We know that's all Hollywood magic, just like we know most spies don't wear tuxedos and handily pin enemy agents to trees with spear guns. However, most people don't really know anything about suppressors other than what we see in movies. That's why it's important to remember that, while these devices reduce the noise of gunshots, they can't turn a roaring lion into a squeaking mouse. Another fact that often gets lost in the shuffle is that suppressors are legal to own and use in most of the United States. In fact, they aren't even all that difficult to get if you're determined to own one.

What Are The Laws About Suppressors?

As Silencers Online points out, suppressors are perfectly legal at the federal level, and they have been ever since the unique firearm accessories were first invented. However, because the federal government was concerned that suppressors would wind up in the hands of organized criminal gangs (given that this was in the early 1900s, at the height of bank robbing, bootlegging, and other syndicate activity), suppressors were made prohibitively expensive by putting a $200 tax on them.

Of course, nowadays that's nowhere near as prohibitive as it was back then, but it's still a decent-sized tax.

But what about at the state level? Well, that's where things can get complicated. As anyone who has purchased a gun knows, there can be more or less red tape for the process depending on where you live. If you're a resident of Illinois, for example, you have to get a FOID card before you can even purchase a firearm, in addition to the normal background checks and age requirements. If you want to get a carry permit, you have to pay fees, go through the necessary background check, and pass a course to prove that you'll be able to handle the responsibility. Whereas next door in Indiana, you basically have to be 21 years old and pass a brief background check to buy a gun. If you want a carry permit, it's a slightly deeper background check and a fee. No muss, no fuss, walk right to the end of the express lane.

Suppressors are subject to the same kind of differences in the law, and depending on where you live, there may be different restrictions, forms, etc. However, in states where suppressors are legal to have and use, they are also typically allowed for hunting (which was, at least partially, the purpose the device was originally invented for). Be sure to check your state's laws to see what applies to you.