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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


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Archived Comments

  • limb
    June 11, 2019 at 6:54 a.m.

    Take a poll Rutledge, to know what Arkansan’s truly want. I think you will find you aren’t doing the will of the people.

  • StrayGoose70
    June 11, 2019 at 9:06 a.m.

    As reported by Ammoland In response to reports that the Virginia Beach shooter used a firearm suppressor in carrying out his terrible crime, David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor for the Giffords gun control group, claimed that a suppressed pistol is especially dangerous because the noise associated with the firearm is difficult to distinguish from a nail gun. As per usual for claims Chipman and his employer make about firearm suppressors, this is false.

    In an article appearing in the Virginian-Pilot, Chipman claims, “The gun does not sound gun-like. It takes the edge out of the tone. This is how I would describe it: It makes a gun sort of sound like a nail gun.”

    But, a suppressed .45 caliber pistol, like the one that is reported to have been used in Virginia Beach, is many times louder than a nail gun:

    A suppressed .45 caliber pistol produces about 130-135 dBA.

    A nail gun produces about 100 dBA.

    Decibels (dBA) are a logarithmic scale, so sound levels increase in a non-linear fashion. A 3 dBA increase doubles the sound pressure level. (Although most people perceive a 6 to 10 dBA increase as double the noise level.)

    The 30-35 dBA difference between a nail gun and a suppressed pistol will be perceived as at least eight times louder to the human ear.

    As an interesting comparison, an unsuppressed pistol produces about 165 dBA. So the difference between an unsuppressed and suppressed pistol is about the same difference in sound pressure level between a suppressed pistol and a nail gun.

  • Packman
    June 11, 2019 at 10 a.m.

    Terrible ruling based purely on gunophobia. I use a screw in choke in my Benelli 20 gauge shotgun while duck hunting. The choke is by definition an accessory. It’s absurd to say such accessories aren’t covered by the 2A. How long until I have to pay a $200 tax just to buy a sling for my deer rifle? Sure, limb, poll that question to gauge the will of the people.

  • mrcharles
    June 11, 2019 at 10:55 a.m.

    sea bass just doesnt get it when it comes to analysis of an issue. Knee jerks speaking is often his downfall.
    Brownback is and remains a good candidate for a governor in another time and another place, probably a slave holding state back in the good ole southern heritage days.
    Our AG, here's hoping her child is doing well and growing up to be a thinker, but as to our AG, is it true that militias or in deer hunting we need silencers to do what the 2nd amendment was designed to do [ or was it to have state militia's to put down slave revolts] ?

    I think that to honor judge scalia, the SCOTUS ought to bring up on its own, can we , even if we like to beat our female companions , have the right to own bazookas? AFter all if the government comes after us they may use tanks and we need sufficient defense.

    Uncle joe tells me that gubmermints require turn signals and break lights to work on our cars. is this socialism or commmienism?

  • RBear
    June 11, 2019 at 11:20 a.m.

    Packman says, "Terrible ruling based purely on gunophobia." What evidence do you have on that, Pack? SCOTUS did not issue an opinion on this so you are once again talking out your a** on things you have no clue on.

  • RBear
    June 11, 2019 at 11:33 a.m.

    It's interesting to see how the NRA has been bilking its members out of dues to funnel them to an elite group of board members through various schemes and deals. The NRA is proving to be one of the most corrupt organizations in the US, using scare tactics to collect fees from members to pay for their own little con game.

  • Packman
    June 11, 2019 at 3:10 p.m.

    Hey RBear - Evidence? Only someone with irrational fear would make such an irrational decision. The evidence is clear. SCOTUS made a decision, moron, no opinion required.
    So, RBear, your lack of objection or rebuttal indicates you agree firearm accessories are protected as an individual right as affirmed by Heller. I just got the ball rolling to acquire a silencer/suppressor for my sporting rifles. My attorney handling the paperwork said it will take 6 - 8 months. Never know when you’re going to need a good silencer on an AR-15.

  • RBear
    June 12, 2019 at 6:11 a.m.

    Pack so, no real evidence. Just a bunch of overstated speculation. In other words, hype. In other words, a lie. Much like the 10,000 or so lies Trump tells daily. In other words, you don't have a clue about 2A and just pay lots of money to NRA to fund their lavish lifestyles while feeding you BS because you're too dumb to think on your own.
    Regarding agreement? Only an idiot like yourself would reach that conclusion. But what else would I expect from a trust baby who got through college as a bench warming tackling dummy. At least, that's what I understand from reputable sources. But I'll have to believe them since you provide no credible evidence otherwise. It must be pretty lame to live behind the name of a video game from my teen years. I'm guessing that's all you were good at during those critical education years.