In 1934, the Franklin Roosevelt administration was able to pass omnibus gun control legislation, with massive infringements on the Second Amendment. It was the National Firearms Act. The law was primarily designed to eliminate the private ownership of handguns. That was too much of a direct assault on the Second Amendment for Congress, which removed handguns from the bill. The remainder of the act passed, creating a bizarre law with unintended consequences.
For obscure and unknown reasons, gun mufflers, also known as silencers, or suppressors, were included in the act. Silencers immediately changed from being a $10 accessory, available over the counter, to becoming an item requiring a federal tax stamp costing $200. The tax stamp required an intrusive and time consuming application process. $200 in 1934 would be $3,600 today. As another measure, $200 was 5.7 ounces of gold in January, 1934. That was by legislative fiat. In December of 1933, it would have been 10 ounces of gold. If you use gold as the standard, 5.7 ounces of gold would be worth $7,400. It was common for a day laborer in 1934 to be paid $1 a day. People worked long days, six days a week. The tax on a silencer was about the yearly pay of a minimum wage worker of the time. It was not a tax. It was a prohibition.
The rest of the world did not share America's self imposed prohibition on gun mufflers. In the rest of the world, silencers were regarded as a useful accessory, something that the neighbors appreciated because it reduced noise pollution.
In Europe, silencers are far less regulated than they are in the United States. In New Zealand, a 12 year old can walk into a hardware store, pay $20, and walk out with a perfectly serviceable commercial silencer.
Inflation has whittled away at the prohibitionist tax on silencers in the United States. $200 dollars is now 28 hours at minimum wage instead of a year's worth of labor. People understand the damage done to unprotected ears by close proximity to gunfire. Silencers have become essential safety equipment in many circumstances.
A growing movement has risen up to place silencers in the same regulatory environment as ordinary rifles and shotguns. It removes the prohibitory tax and the burdensome, unnecessary regulations. Legislation has been introduced in Congress by Matt Salmon (R) Arizona.
It The Hearing Protection Act. It keeps the federal regulation that states refer to when they require federally sanctioned ownership for legal possession of silencers in many. That regulation becomes the same as for ordinary rifles and shotguns.
When legislators are informed of the bizarre history of U.S. regulation and prohibition of these safety devices, they have no problem passing corrective legislation. Josh Waldron, one of three founders of the American Suppressor Association, says that when legislators become informed, 90% of both Democrats and Republicans vote for the reform legislation.
The Hearing Protection Act will pass. It only needs to be presented to Congress.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch