Legislature repeals state-level ban on gun silencers

The House gave final approval Monday to a bill, officially labeled “The Tennessee Hearing Protection Act,” that repeals a state law generally prohibiting firearm silencers.

The final House vote was 74-18. That came after House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the measure (SB921) to require background checks for persons buying a silence and to declare use a silencer-equipped weapon  in committing a crime a felony.

The Senate had approved the bill 28-1 on April 3. Sponsors are Sen. Steve Southerland Rep. Tilman Goins, both R-Morristown.

In the House debate, Goins noted that silencers must be registered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after payment of a $200 fee. He said the bill just “gets Tennessee out of the way” for those who want to buy and use silencers in accord with federal regulations.

Note: Stewart emailed a statement to media on the House vote:

 Today, the Republican supermajority squelched debate on the Tennessee House floor so that they would not have to answer questions about a bill that will allow people who can’t pass a background check to purchase silenced weapons without penalty.  The so-called “Tennessee Hearing Protection Act” ends the prohibition on possessing, manufacturing, transporting, repairing or selling a firearm silencer.  Any citizen who can imagine what it will be like to be a police officer and to potentially face a concealed assailant using a silenced weapon can see what an unwise and irresponsible bill this is.  And yet, shortly after debate began tonight, it was cut off by Republican leadership who forced a vote on the measure.  At the very least, the people deserve a debate so they can hear the potential dangers of what a silenced weapon can do.  Shutting down debate on crucial issues like this one does a disservice to the people who elected us.

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