Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Airsoft Silencer Legality

I am not a lawyer and the following is not legal advice! It is merely a compilation of the applicable law, cases and correspondence that I have found scattered accross the web! I bear no responsibility to anyone who misuses this information!

!End Disclaimer!

Contrary to popular belief silencers are not illegal per se, in the US, but there are A LOT of regulations that govern their ownership.

Here's why this is important to me as a member of the airsoft community;

ANYTHING which COULD be used to reduce the report of a firearm could be considered a firearm silencer! Thats right little Johnny, that carboard tube you just taped to your AEG barrel could land you in the federal pen! (OK, this is an exaggeration, but not as much of one as I would have thought!)

For example, according to an October 2005 letter from Carl J. Truscott to a would-be paintball silencer maker, anything that can reduce the report of a "portable firearm" is considered to be a firearm silencer. Apperantly, regardless of whether or not significant removal and modification would be required to make the part work with a real firearm.

Its important to note that this is a letter from the director of the ATF (At least in 2005). It contains ambiguous statements that COULD be interpreted very differently from either side.
But, even if the Fed's have the wrong interpretation, they could still make your life unpleasant for a while.

Basically, Mr. Truscott seemed to be saying that the sample paintball barrel that his office received was NOT a silencer, BUT that it could be, if removed from the rest of the barrel (HUH!?!).

I don't know for sure, but it seems that the ported paintball barrel was OK. But there seemed to be a sub text which basically implied (Strongly) that adding any type of modification that COULD in some way be used on a real gun was a no no without the proper licensing.

If you're confused, then its time you join the club, because no one seems to know exactly what this means. From my perspective this is a yes and a no in one sentence.

Remember! Its not illegal to own the silencer as long as you get the proper license. However, under the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) it is illegal to MAKE the silencer without first obtaining ATF approval, registering and properly marking the device AND paying the $200.00 registration fee! (See the Truscott ATF letter)

Registration of a silencer is apperantly something that Michael A. Crooker forgot to do. In 2004 Mr. Crooker was arrested by the ATF for attempting to send a large bore airgun through the mail with a silencer included. The ATF determined that the silencer (designed for a .44cal airgun) was capable of suppresing the sound of a real steal firearm.(Which does make sense).

Mr. Crooker was unfortunate enough to be found guilty of violating 18 U.S.C.S. Sec. 921(a)(3
by transporting a firearm silencer. This has landed him in federal prison for the mandatory 15 years!

This is not a small potatoes deal! Thats serious prison time any way you look at it!

I am certain that Mr. Crooker is appealing this conviction, but it does not change the fact that his life has not likely been too pleasant since this incident.

Now I cannot give anyone legal advice at this point in my career. BUT! I can tell you that I certainly will not be going anywhere NEAR trying to alter any faux suppressor that I come in contact with! Based on the Crooker case, it looks like taping on paper towel tube to the end of the barrel of an airsoft gun could result in federal prison!

Even though there is some room for interpretation on the issue of what constitutes a silencer/suppressor/muffler the potential risks are high.

Whats the lesson I'm taking away from this?

Just because you might not be using the sound suppressing device on a real gun, doesn't make it legal unless you are willing to notify the ATF, request approval, fill out the form(s) and pay the $200.00 big ones!

Given that the "report" on the average airsoft gun is already close to the decibel level of suppressed, real steel guns, its hardly worth it to me.

And now you know!

I am not a lawyer and the above posting is not legal advice! It is merely a compilation of the applicable law, cases and correspondence that I have found scattered accross the web! I bear no responsibility to anyone who misuses this information!

!End Disclaimer!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Should be noted the case in point involved a felon who was not allowed to own a weapon/silencer even if it was declared and the fee paid. He was also suspected of threatening to use toxins against government officials.

Although I agree, Don't use silencers.

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