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GOCRA Briefing: Sound Suppressors – Mufflers for Firearms

What is a sound suppressor?

Invented in 1902 by Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the automobile muffler, a sound suppressor is a device that lowers the volume of most gunshots from “instant hearing damage” to just “really loud.” These devices protect hearing, reduce recoil and noise pollution, and allow shooters to more easily communicate together, making hunting, target shooting and coaching safer for everyone.

shooter-webNot Really a “Silencer”

Maxim, an expert marketer, named his invention the “Maxim Silencer,” leading to over a hundred years of misconceptions.

Shooting a firearm makes three separate sounds:

  • The “clack” of the action moving
  • The “boom” of the gunpowder
  • The “crack” of the sonic boom made by the bullet traveling faster than the speed of sound.

Sound suppressors can only reduce the sound of the “boom,” and only by about 30 decibels. For example, a good sound suppressor can reduce the sound of a 9mm pistol from 64 times louder than a jackhammer, to “only” about 8 times louder!

Noise Scale

Legal in 39 States – and Growing

map-webIn the last five years, 15 states have expanded the ability of private citizens to own and use sound suppressors. The devices are legal in our neighboring states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Traditionally liberal states like Maryland and Connecticut allow suppressors, and legislation – introduced by Democrats in both chambers – is working its way through the Illinois legislature.

 

 

Heavily Federally Regulated

The possession and use of sound suppressors are governed by the National Firearms Act of 1934. To obtain a sound suppressor, a law-abiding citizen must:tax-stamp

  • Pay a special federally licensed dealer in advance for the device (prices range from $500 to $1,500 or more)
  • Obtain the signature of her local chief law enforcement officer (usually a police chief).
  • Submit to the ATF:
    • A detailed application form including information about the applicant and the specific serial-numbered suppressor
    • Fingerprints taken by a law enforcement agency
    • Passport-style photographs
    • A non-refundable $200 tax per device
  • Wait approximately nine months

Only after the application, fee, and fingerprints have been processed, and after the ATF sends a tax stamp, may the citizen return to the federally licensed dealer to pick up her sound suppressor. In all, the individual must pass three separate background checks before taking possession of the suppressor.

Possession of an unregistered suppressor can result in 10 years in federal prison; use of a suppressor in a crime carries a mandatory 30-year sentence.

CDC-Recommended Hearing Protection

cdcThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has, on five separate occasions, in separate studies, over multiple years, with multiple researchers, recommended the use of a sound suppressor with a firearm whenever possible. For example:
“The only potentially effective noise control method to reduce students’ or instructors’ noise exposure from gunfire is through the use of noise suppressors that can be attached to the end of the gun barrel. However, some states do not permit civilians to use suppressors on firearms.”

Not a Tool for Violent Criminals

Suppressor usage in violent crime is extremely rare. In fact, most states don’t track suppressors used in crime because it’s too rare to bother tracking. A scientific study in 2007 looked at a ten-year period, and found only two federal prosecutions in which someone was actually shot with a suppressed firearm. In most of the approximately 15 federal prosecutions per year, the suppressor wasn’t used in a crime, but was merely found in the possession of the defendant.

Poaching Concerns Unfounded

Suppressors are not used in poaching to any significant extent. In the ten-year study above, there was only one prosecution found for illegal hunting. This is understandable, due to the limited muffling of gunshots provided by a suppressor, combined with the harsh federal penalties. In an Alabama newspaper, a senior state conservation official said, “A poacher typically uses whatever they’ve got. They’re not going to go out and fill out a lot of paperwork.” When asked about the concern that conservation officers wouldn’t hear gunshots, he said, “Our officers don’t follow the shot. We use other methods.”

GOCRA Briefing: Landlords Cannot Legally Ban Carry in Common Areas

Mall of America sign

Mall of America sign. Wikipedia photo by Joe Chill 2

The Mall of America has been in the news recently, after it was named as a possible target of an attack by al-Shabaab terrorists1. The group claimed responsibility for a 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in which 63 shoppers were killed and over 175 more were injured by four terrorists armed with grenades and rifles.2

Mall management continues to insist that it retains the right to ban visitors from legally carrying pistols into the mall.3 An analysis of Minnesota law reveals that they are mistaken: the law precludes the mall from banning legal carry.

Private Businesses Can Ban Carry – Sometimes

The Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act of 20034 allows certain types of private entities to remove individuals carrying under the terms of the law:

Subd. 17. Posting; trespass. (a) A person carrying a firearm on or about his or her person or clothes under a permit or otherwise who remains at a private establishment knowing that the operator of the establishment or its agent has made a reasonable request that firearms not be brought into the establishment may be ordered to leave the premises. A person who fails to leave when so requested is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.5

The statute goes on to define in great detail the form that the notification and request must take, including the placement and content of signs, means of verbal notification, and some special exclusions.

Landlords Can’t Ban Carry!

One of those exclusions relates directly to landlords, who are specifically barred from restricting lawful carry:

(e) A landlord may not restrict the lawful carry or possession of firearms by tenants or their guests.6

Landlords are also barred from attempting an end-run around the statute:

(f) Notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions in section 609.605, this subdivision sets forth the exclusive criteria to notify a permit holder when otherwise lawful firearm possession is not allowed in a private establishment and sets forth the exclusive penalty for such activity.

No Absurd Results

Minnesota law provides very clear instructions for interpretation of its various provisions:

645.17 PRESUMPTIONS IN ASCERTAINING LEGISLATIVE INTENT.
(1) the legislature does not intend a result that is absurd, impossible of execution, or unreasonable;
(2) the legislature intends the entire statute to be effective and certain;7
<…>

A prohibition on carry in common areas would effectively prevent tenants and their guests from reaching the tenant spaces. This is the quintessential definition of an “absurd, impossible of execution” result that renders a portion of the law meaningless, in contradiction of the Legislature’s intent for “…the entire statute to be effective….”

Because carry cannot be prohibited in the tenants’ private spaces, carry cannot be banned in the common areas required to reach those spaces.

 

This analysis is provided as general information, but it is not legal advice. Individual circumstances may result in different legal outcomes. If you plan to visit the Mall of America while carrying, given the mall’s repeated declarations that they have the power to ban guns in common areas of the mall, you should consult an attorney licensed in Minnesota.

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1 Google News: “Mall of America” “Al-Shabaab” (https://www.google.com/search?q=”mall+of+america”+”al-shabaab”)
2 “Westgate shopping mall attack,” Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb. 24, 2015 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westgate_shopping_mall_attack)
3 “Security Information,” Mall of America Web site. Retrieved Feb. 24, 2015 (http://www.mallofamerica.com/guests/security)
4 2003 Minnesota Session Laws, Chapter 28-S.F.No. 842 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?id=28&year=2003&type=0)
5 Minnesota Statutes 2014, Chapter 624.714, Subd. 17 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=624.714#stat.624.714.17)
6 Ibid, paragraph (e)
7 Ibid, paragraph (f)
8 Minnesota Statutes 2014, Chapter 645.17 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=645.17)

GOCRA Briefing: Long Gun Purchase in Non-Contiguous States

House File 830 (Lucero)/Senate File 900 (Schmit) eliminates an outdated paperwork requirement that exposes permit holders to an inadvertent felony charge while costing the state money for no reason.

It legal for a Minnesotan to buy a rifle or shotgun in any state

Under both federal and Minnesota law, it is legal for a Minnesotan to buy a “long gun” in any state. Unfortunately, the state law is confusing to read, because it is based on a federal law that changed 29 years ago.

 

Federal Law – 1968

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968[1] restricted sales of long guns to persons who lived in the state where the gun was sold. It also allowed the sale to residents of contiguous states – states touching the seller’s state – as long as the transaction weren’t forbidden under either state’s law.

 

Minnesota Law – 1969

No Minnesota law barred such a sale, so in 1969, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law[2] to clearly confirm that such a sale was legal. There was no policy change, just an easy-to-read confirmation.

 

Federal Law – 1986

The federal Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986[3] removed the restriction limiting long gun sales to only contiguous states. This once again allowed a Minnesotan to purchase a long gun in any state in the country.

 

Minnesota’s obsolete law confuses licensed dealers2015-leg-contiguous-1

Federally licensed dealers rely on a 500-page book[4] from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives (BATFE) which reprints every gun law from every state. In the Minnesota section, a licensed dealer finds the citation to the left.

What started out as a clear, permissive confirmation now appears to a non-lawyer as a limitation to contiguous state sales, although no such limitation exists.

To once again clearly explain existing law, and again without changing policy, changing the words “a contiguous state” to “any state” in this statute would once again ensure that Minnesotans can exercise their constitutional rights.

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[1] Public Law 90-618, October 22, 1968 (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-82/pdf/STATUTE-82-Pg1213-2.pdf)

[2] H.F. 543, 1969 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?id=216&year=1969&type=0), coded as MN Stat. 624.71 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=624.71)

[3] Public Law 99-308, May 19, 1986 (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-100/pdf/STATUTE-100-Pg449.pdf)

[4] State Laws and Published Ordinances — Firearms, 2010 – 2011 — 31st Edition (https://www.atf.gov/publications/firearms/state-laws/31st-edition/index.html)