Silencers are often referred to as suppressors. The best descriptive term is gun muffler.
In New Zealand, which has a strong tradition of gun ownership, gun mufflers are unregulated and cheap. They are for sale over the counter or in the mail. The above ads or similar ones can be seen on the online buying and selling site for New Zealand, trademeco.nz. From trademe.co.nz:
This Silencer will fit any centrefire rifle with 17CM of exposed barrel with a diameter smaller than 19mm.Rimfire gun mufflers are commonly available for under $20. Consider that a New Zealand dollar is current valued at .65 U.S. dollars.
Takes away the loud crack (down to about a 22 magnum noise) and helps protect your ears from permanent hearing loss.
Super strong tooling grade alloy construction designed to withstand bursts of Full Auto fire, making it virtually indestructible on a hunting rifle and keeping the weight down to just 370 grams.
There is no licence required to purchase these in New Zealand.
In New Zealand, this economy .22 rimfire gun muffler is selling for about $15. Note the mention at the end of the unregulated status:
There are no age or licence restrictions on silencer sales.In New Zealand, a 12 year old boy or girl can make some money doing chores, drop by the local sporting goods store, and pick up a gun muffler over the counter for a few dollars.
In New Zealand, a country that even leftists would include in their definition of "developed", the murder rate is very low, .9 per hundred thousand. It is a little lower than the U.K., and a little higher than Germany. It is close to that of culturally similar groups in the United States, where, if you exclude American black and Hispanic crime, the murder rate is about 1.5 per 100k. If you exclude the murders committed by illegal aliens, the U.S. rate for similar cultural groups is even closer.
New Zealand tends to be a darling of the left. The governments move back and forth between far left Socialist and Libertarian philosophies. They do not see the need to place heavy regulation or taxes on gun mufflers. In this they follow much of Europe, where possession and use of silencers/gun mufflers is considered to be polite. Their use protects hearing and reduces noise pollution.
In the United States, a person who desires a gun muffler must submit extensive paperwork to the federal government, pay a $200 tax, wait perhaps six months, and then take possession of a device that most amateur builders could create in an afternoon. Once in possession, they cannot lend the device to a friend without the owner being present.
The law is a holdover from the 1930's when the Roosevelt administration was attempting to bring as much regulatory power under federal government control as it could. No reason for the $200 dollar tax on gun mufflers was given during the congressional debates. From Criminal Use of Firearm Silencers (2007):
The 1934 congressional debates provide no explanation about why silencers were licensed.No reason was given for the extreme penalty either. Possession of an unlicensed gun muffler was made a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In 1934, $200 was equivalent to $3,500 dollars today. $10,000 had the purchasing power of $175,000 dollars today.
When considered as a safety device, the restrictions on gun mufflers in the U.S. have been one of the biggest public health fiascoes created by the government. It has resulted in tens of millions of people's hearing loss over 80 years of draconian regulation. To test this hypothesis, visit a gun show and look for hearing aids, or simply ask older members of the gun culture. You will have to raise your voice.
Cross cultural comparisons are tricky, but the New Zealand and European experiences show that regulation of gun mufflers is superfluous in the United States.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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