Repeal of TN ban on gun silencers confuses some would-be buyers

Since the Legislature repealed a state law banning firearm silencers earlier this year, some Tennesseans have been going into gun stores thinking they could now buy one, reports the Kingsport Times-News. But the state law change had no impact on federal law that requires approval from the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division and thus the “Tennessee Hearing Protection Act” had no real impact on the already-in-place procedure for getting a silencer, also known as a suppressor.

“The people in Nashville signed the paperwork, and people think you can now come in and buy your silencer by just doing a gun check,” (Sally) Simpson (owner of The Gun Rack in Kingsport) said. “But silencers are regulated by the federal government, so they overrule the state government.” (She said a dozen people per day either visit her store or call wanting to buy a silencer.)

…If you wish to purchase a silencer, you must go to a licensed firearm dealer, fill out an application and send $200 to the ATF, which then does a background check on the buyer, Simpson said, noting that some folks are waiting up to a year to hear back from the federal agency.

…Michael P. Knight, special agent and public information officer with the Nashville field office of the ATF, said the (time) issue simply comes down to resources.

“It is taking several months (to do the background checks). Our staff is working day in and day out processing the applications, but it is very time-consuming,” Knight said.

…But this begs the question of why did state legislators pass the THPA to begin with? Simpson believes it was done to make the legislators look like they’re doing a good job.

State Sen. Steve Southerland, a co-sponsor of the bill, did not comment on why the legislature approved the act, but forwarded the Times-News’ request to state Rep. Tilman Goins, the other sponsor of the bill. Goins did not respond.

Knight said the act was not passed to add confusion to the purchasing of silencers.

“Part of it is when senators and representatives talk with their constituents, they’d like to see this passed,” Knight said. “They also realize it’s contradictory of federal law, but they still want it passed because it shows support for that particular issue or topic.”

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