Buying a gun silencer just got a lot easier

Does a shotgun silencer actually work?
Does a shotgun silencer actually work?

SilencerCo wants to sell you a silencer ... and also the lawyer you'll need to buy it.

Buying a silencer is legal, and they are more rigorously regulated by the federal government than most guns. It can take nearly a year to go through all the legal channels to buy a silencer. It's such a pain that some potential buyers don't even bother to purchase one.

SilencerCo, a maker of silencers in West Valley City, Utah, has launched an unusual service for potential buyers called EasyTrust.

For a fee of $130, SilencerCo provides legal counsel to help customers leap the hurdles required for silencer approval.

  • The company says it will eliminate certain pre-purchase requirements, including written approval from a local chief law enforcement officer and buyer fingerprinting.

  • It will enable the use of silencers among family members.
  • Protect against potential future regulatory restrictions.
  • Provide for the orderly transition of ownership upon death of the owner.

Silencers are attached to the barrels of guns to dampen the sounds of gunfire. Because they do not actually silence the gunfire, they are more accurately known as suppressors.

Related: Gun silencer sales are booming

The federal government categorizes silencers as firearms, even though they are accessories that cannot fire bullets themselves.

Silencers, and also fully automatic machineguns, fall under the National Firearms Act, which was passed in 1934 in the wake of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to make it more difficult for gangsters to get certain guns.

The basic background check for most guns requires the purchaser to present a photo ID to the retailer and electronically submit a form to the ATF.

But purchasing a silencer requires the applicant to mail or Fax a photo and fingerprints to the ATF and to pay a $200 tax. The approval process for most guns takes about 20 minutes, but for a silencer it can take nine or 10 months.

To offset the tax, another silencer seller, Advanced Armament Corp. of Lawrenceville, Georgia, offers a $200 tax credit to buyers. "Don't let a government-imposed tax stop you from practicing your right to shoot safe & silent," says the company on its web site.

Related: Beretta wants to be U.S. Army's new gun, again

Many Americans don't realize that silencers are legal in 39 states for civilians who have not been convicted of felonies. As a result, companies that make silencers devote a considerable amount of energy into educating the public on the legality of their products.

Gun owners like silencers because they make the sound of gunfire less deafening, and hunters use them to avoid scaring away game.

SilencerCo and Advanced Armament both use a sales slogan that's simple but to the point: "Yes, silencers are legal." Advanced Armament also offers an online tutorial called "Can U., the Silencer University," about the laws involving "cans," which is slang for suppressors.

The silencer market has been booming.

The civilian market for silencers soared 37% in 2013, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The tally in 2013 was half a million, compared to 360,000 in 2012 and 285,000 in 2011.

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