Gun laws and regulations surrounding the purchase, sale, and use of firearms vary from state to state in the US. The same applies to firearm accessories, including suppressors.
There is a lot of debate surrounding the use of suppressors in the United States.
Also called silencers, suppressors are thought by many to be a risk to public safety, which means that their legality is hotly contested.
Today, I’ll be exploring the question of whether suppressors are illegal and why the use of these firearm accessories may be prohibited in certain states.
What Is A Suppressor?
In order to understand why there is so much debate about suppressors, you need to understand exactly what a suppressor is and what it does.
As I already mentioned, a suppressor may also be referred to as a silencer, which gives you a pretty good idea of the purpose of these accessories.
Basically, a suppressor is an extension that you attach to the muzzle of your firearm.
It effectively muffles the sound of the shot by reducing the acoustics in the gun’s muzzle during report and recoil. This allows the gun holder to fire one or multiple shots more quietly.
I should note at this point that although ‘suppressor’ and ‘silencer’ are terms that are frequently used interchangeably, some people use these terms to differentiate between different types of firearm muzzle attachments.
You may hear ‘suppressor’ more often used to describe an accessory that reduces the flash when a gun fires, with ‘silencer’ being the term for something that muffles the sound.
However, since suppressors or silencers don’t actually silence the gun fully, many people prefer to use the term ‘suppressor’ for both muzzle types in the interest of being linguistically accurate.
Why Are Suppressors Illegal In Some States?
Suppressors are illegal in a total of 8 US states. I’ll tell you which ones have banned the sale, purchase, and use of suppressors in a moment, but first, let’s talk about the reasons why some states have chosen to make suppressors illegal.
As I have mentioned, the term ‘suppressor’ can be used to describe sound-muffling devices or firearm accessories that only reduce the flash.
While one is generally considered to be more of a public safety hazard than the other, both can be cause for concern in certain situations.
Obviously, being able to muffle the sound of a gunshot can be a problem if someone is using a gun unlawfully.
If there is little to no sound, the chances of witnesses being able to report that they heard the shot is significantly lowered.
Additionally, other people in the vicinity would not be able to protect themselves by vacating the area in the event of a shooting because they wouldn’t be able to hear the shots.
Even the absence of a flash, with or without sound, can be dangerous. Many people, such as those in the military, have good reasons for wanting to reduce the flash produced by their firearms.
This is because, when you remove the flash, you also get improved night vision and less blowback.
Unfortunately, no flash also means that a person in the shooter’s vicinity might not recognize a gunshot, especially if the sound has also been reduced to a suppressed cracking noise.
For this reason, even suppressors that only affect the flash and not the sound produced by a gun have been banned in some states.
In Which States Are Suppressors Legal?
Suppressors are still legal in the vast majority of US states, with 42 states allowing the purchase and use of suppressors for lawful purposes.
You can still purchase a suppressor for private use in Colorado, Washington, Florida, Alaska, Montana, Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi, Indiana, New Mexico, Maine, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Maryland, Louisiana, Connecticut, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
However, please note that the states of Vermont and Connecticut, while allowing the use of suppressors privately, do not permit the use of these accessories for hunting.
Additionally, just because the other 40 states on this list have no bans on using suppressors for hunting and allow their private use, that doesn’t mean that there are no restrictions on suppressors in these states.
All of the above states have laws in place that put limitations on the age at which an individual can purchase a suppressor, which is 21.
People purchasing suppressors in the US must also be citizens of the United States. The sale of a suppressor must be subject to a background check as well as a payment of $200 in Transfer Tax.
Of course, the legality of suppressors in these 42 states assumes that the use of the suppressor will be legitimate as well as lawful. If these conditions are not met, legal action will be taken.
Where Are Suppressors Illegal?
Currently, it is illegal to purchase or use a suppressor for any purpose in the states of Delaware, Hawaii, California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.
These states have banned the use of suppressors because they deem these accessories, whether they suppress only the flash or the sound as well as the flash, to be a risk to public safety.
This is mainly due to the fact that suppressors make it more difficult to detect and respond to gunshots, effectively making a firearm more dangerous.
Suppressors are legal in 42 of the 50 US states, although 2 of these states (Connecticut and Vermont) have bans in place on using suppressors for hunting.
The states of California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Hawaii, and New York have banned the use of suppressors entirely because it is believed that suppressors may increase the chances of firearms being used unlawfully.
If you are thinking about purchasing a suppressor for your firearm, make sure you live in a state where it is legal to do so and that you are of legal age.
You will also need to be prepared to undergo a background check and pay Transfer Tax.