Arizona Bill to Remove Silencers from Prohibited Weapons List

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Arizona Bill to Remove Silencers from Prohibited Weapons List

Originally posted by by Dean Weingarten of Gun Watch.

In Arizona, Senator Wendy Rogers has introduced a bill, AZ SB 1037, to remove silencers, suppressors, “gun mufflers” from the list of prohibited weapons in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3101. Here is the basic change:

8. “Prohibited weapon”:

(a) Includes the following:

(i) An item that is a bomb, grenade, rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces or mine and that is explosive, incendiary or poison gas.

(ii) A device that is designed, made or adapted to muffle the report of a firearm.

(iii) (ii) A firearm that is capable of shooting more than one shot automatically, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

This is a simple and straightforward bill. It removes gun mufflers from the state list of prohibited weapons.  It does not do anything else.

The Arizona Citizen’s Defense League (AZCDL) supports SB 1037.

The current state of law in Arizona is that gun mufflers, silencers, suppressors , are illegal to own in Arizona, unless they are legal to own under federal law.

It is unclear how, exactly, this state of law came to be. Not all states ban gun mufflers; not all states require their citizens/residents to comply with federal law on gun mufflers.

This correspondent’s speculation is: after the federal government required gun mufflers to pay an insane four months worth of wages for a tax stamp to own a gun muffler, ($200 was four months of wages in 1934), the bureaucrats in the treasury were worried about Constitutional challenges to the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA). Very few cases are brought against people for the illegal possession of a gun muffler under the act. When they are, the possibility exists for Constitutional challenges.

The NFA is vulnerable from several different points of attack; on Second Amendment grounds; on interstate commerce grounds; and under the legitimacy of the tax, as the law was passed as a tax specifically as a “work around” of Constitutional limitations on federal power. These could be avoided if possession of gun mufflers were prosecuted under state law instead of federal law. Federal regulators had a motive to push for state laws that mirrored federal law.

Records are difficult to find in the era before the Internet made searches easy. However, many states passed laws mirroring the prohibitions in the NFA against gun mufflers, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and fully automatic firearms. How much the federal government lobbied state governments to pass such laws is unknown.

There is no logical reason to make the possession and use of safety devices such as gun mufflers legally difficult. Many countries, for many years, have had no restrictions on gun mufflers. In New Zealand, it is still legal for anyone to walk into a hardware store, with cash, and walk out with a legal gun muffler for under $50. None of those countries suffered from a rash of crimes with gun mufflers. Very few crimes are committed with gun mufflers.

Removing state prohibitions on gun mufflers does several useful things.

It separates federal and state law. It is bad policy to make state law dependent on federal law. This undermines the checks and balances in the Constitution used to protect the public from the government.

It eliminates the possibility of local prosecution for the possession of a gun muffler. In Arizona, it is legal to use gun mufflers for legal purposes, including hunting. It is unreasonable to have a state law whose only purpose is to facilitate the prosecution of federal law, which state lawmakers do not support.

It encourages the use of gun mufflers, with subsequent benefits in safety, reduction in hearing loss, and reduction in noise pollution.

It adds to the growing pressure to remove gun mufflers from those items taxed by the NFA. Anyone who has gone through the draconian and byzantine procedures of the NFA, which routinely take a year or more to purchase a piece of safety equipment, understands the desirability of this reform.

There have been previous attempts to remove gun mufflers from the list of prohibited weapons in Arizona.

In 2013, the Arizona legislature removed a prohibition on using gun mufflers while hunting.

In 2015, the Senate voted to remove gun mufflers, short barreled rifles and shotguns, and nun-chucks from the banned weapons list in Arizona, with a bill introduced by Senator Kelli Ward. The bill ultimately failed after a media campaign to demonize Senator Ward. Senator Ward is now the Chair of the Republican party in Arizona.

In 2019, the legislature removed nun-chucks from the list, with a bill which was introduced by Senator Gowan.

There are 22 states which do not ban gun mufflers under state law.

Several states have removed state bans on gun mufflers. Tennessee removed their ban in 2017. Arkansas removed their ban in 2019. The latest was Texas, which removed its ban in 2021.  Texas has the most gun mufflers registered and taxed of any state in the union, over 400 thousand.  Arizona has over 85 thousand, close to  the same number per capita.

Legislatures are busy places. Removal of the state ban on gun mufflers in Arizona is common sense. Whether there is sufficient will in the state legislature to pass the bill is unknown.

©2022 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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