WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of federal restrictions on gun silencers.
Arkansas and seven other states had urged the high court to take up the issue. On Monday, the court announced that it won't weigh in.
The nine justices offered no explanation for their decision.
The gunman who killed 12 people in Virginia Beach, Va., on May 31 was using a silencer, according to media reports.
Supporters of the sound-muffling devices, which are attached to the end of a gun barrel, often refer to them as "noise suppressors," noting that they lessen but do not eliminate the sound of gunshots.
But the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulates them, calls them "silencers." Under the 85-year-old statute, the devices must be registered. A $200 tax is also levied whenever one of the devices is purchased.
Kansas tried, unsuccessfully, to nullify the federal statute in 2013, passing what it called the Second Amendment Protection Act.
Approved by that state's legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Sam Brownback, it declared that a firearm or "firearm accessory" that is "owned or manufactured" in Kansas isn't "subject to any federal [gun] law" unless it crosses the state border.
After its passage, a Kansas gun owner named Jeremy Kettler purchased an unregistered silencer from the Tough Guys military surplus store in Chanute, Kan., subsequently posting video of the unregistered device.
Kettler and the store's owner, Shane Cox, were eventually convicted of violating the National Firearms Act. Both men were sentenced to probation.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their appeals, declining to find that the federal statute unconstitutionally infringes on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
After appeals were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Kansas filed a friend of the court brief siding with Kettler. Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Texas and Utah added their names to the brief as well.
The states argued that the Second Amendment "protects firearm accessories such as sound suppressors."
The brief argued that "silencers serve several lawful and beneficial purposes" including reducing the risk of firearm-related hearing damage.
"Silencers, along with other methods of hearing protection, are integral to the Second Amendment because they improve the safety of firearms use," it stated.
While earplugs are also an option, "Kettler's co-defendant, Shane Cox, [had] testified that earplugs are uncomfortable and detract from the sport shooting experience," Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt noted in the 13-page brief.
Earlier this year, Arkansas passed legislation eliminating the previous state ban on silencers.
The Arkansas law is less sweeping than the Kansas law, which made it a felony for government agents "to enforce or attempt to enforce" federal gun laws on certain Kansas-owned and Kansas-manufactured firearms and firearm accessories.
In a written statement, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge expressed disappointment with Monday's announcement.
"Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court did not take the opportunity to clarify the lawful scope of the Second Amendment," she said in a written statement. "As the Attorney General, I will always defend our right to bear arms."
A Section on 06/11/2019
Print Headline: High court silent on gun silencers