News & Opinion | August 26, 2019 10:27 am

There’s a Thriving Online Market for DIY Gun Silencers

Online retailers make it easy to skip the fees and screenings normally required

Gun silencers
Gun silencers are highly regulated, but online retailers provide an easy workaround
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

To obtain a gun silencer, consumers are required by federal law to submit to a lengthy application process, which includes a fee and extensive screening. The process can take up to a year and makes silencers some of the most highly regulated gun accessories in the United States. Unfortunately, however, consumers have found an all too convenient loophole, and they’re using it to circumvent the process.

According to The Verge, a booming online market is making it easy for consumers to bypass all the fees and regulations by simply building their own silencers at home. Dozens of online retailers sell what are essentially “de facto silencers” under other names. So-called barrel shrouds, solvent filters and flashlight tubes can be purchased online perfectly legally, and consumers can transform them into gun silencers just as easily. And if a popular Facebook group for the construction of homemade suppressors is to be believed, plenty of consumers are doing exactly that.

This loophole largely leaves authorities with their hands tied. As one criminal defense attorney told The Verge, “You can’t control people taking legitimate items and making them into something illegitimate.” Moreover, as The Verge noted, building a DIY suppressor isn’t actually illegal. Federal law still requires the device to be registered and its constructor to undergo a background check, but the electronic registration process is not only much quicker, but also much easier to simply forego entirely.

Federal regulation around silencers dates back to 1934, when crime featuring silencers was not uncommon. Today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives argues that silencers are rarely used in violent crime. A suppressed weapon was used in June’s Virginia Beach shooting, however, leading to renewed interest in the accessory, including the introduction of a bill to ban the attachments.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic rep Bonnie Watson Coleman, said the DIY loophole isn’t an excuse for inaction: “Our complete paralysis when it comes to keeping maximum-damage weapons and devices like suppressors out of the market — whether they’re assembled in a factory or easily constructed at home — is disgusting.”

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