Since the Texas State Senate passed HB-957, we are getting phone calls, emails, chat messages, and people dropping in every day thinking that buying a suppressor in Texas is now exempt from federal regulations if it was made in Texas.
So, are they? The answer is a very simple and clear, NO. Well why the hell not? SEVERAL reasons, which we will detail in a moment. First, about the bill that is causing all the hoopla...
Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) put forth HB 957 on January 4 with 31 Republican sponsors and one Democrat. From the excitement of social media posts, chat room & forum chatter, you might think that this bill allows silencers made in Texas to be immune to federal regulations. This is not the whole truth. While that may be the eventual outcome, here are three things the bill does:
- Amends the Texas Penal Code to remove a firearm silencer from among the prohibited weapons who’s intentional or knowing possession, manufacture, transport, repair, or sale constitutes an offense.
- Amends the Government Code to state that a firearm suppressor that is manufactured in and remains in Texas is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration.
- Prohibits state or local entities from adopting policies that would allow the enforcement of federal laws regulating a firearm suppressor or that imposes a regulation that does not exist under state law.
In summary, the bill removes silencers that are made in Texas, using Texas-sourced materials, from the list of prohibited weapons IN TEXAS. However, there is currently a path to owning a silencer, which is to follow the NFA laws and pay the federal government a $200 infringement tax through your local Class 3/NFA dealer, like Houston's very own, Silencer Shop ELITE Dealer, Waymore Silencers.
The bill states that a silencer made in Texas from Texas materials with no imported material or parts are exempt from federal registration. We will get into the implications and reality of this further down. The bill would prevent state employees from enforcing federal law.
So, that sounds like we're headed in the direction of being able to buy a suppressor without dealing with the federal regulations, right? NO.
Aside from the not so minor detail that the bill has not become law in Texas yet, this bill will not protect you from the federal regulations or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives. The ATF is who issues and oversees all firearms and suppressor dealers in the country and regardless of Texas laws (which may or may not be passed into state law) no Class 3/NFA dealer would risk losing their license, and hence, their business, to sell you a suppressor without following the federal regulations and laws which supersede local and state laws.
Again, this bill does not protect you from the ATF or federal regulations. It prevents the state from helping the feds, but it does not stop them from coming into Texas to enforce the federal laws. Federal law trumps state law (US Constitution Article VI paragraph 2 the Supremacy clause). We have seen in other states that have passed similar laws, and the ATF simply ignores the state law. An example of this is Kansas where Jeremy Kettler purchased a “Made in Kansas” silencer that was not registered with the federal government and was prosecuted in federal court. Kansas had recently passed a similar version of Texas’s law. The gun store owner and Kettler were arrested by the ATF, prosecuted, and convicted.
The Supreme Court let stand a ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that found the National Firearms Act falls within Congress’ power to tax.
Taking that into account, Texas’s law states that the Attorney General must seek a judgment from a federal district court in Texas that Texas’ law is constitutional, upon written notification by a Texas citizen of their intent to manufacture a silencer. If the federal court were to rule in the favor of the law, this could limit how much the ATF could enforce current federal laws in Texas. However, if the court were to rule that Texas’s law was unconstitutional, then the citizen would not be protected from the ATF. It seems that the law is intentionally seeking a Texas citizen to spur a federal court case by writing to the Attorney General to obtain a court ruling.
Governor Abbott signed this bill into law...
...things could get very interesting for Texas. If the state was able to protect its citizens from federal regulations, this would be a huge win for gun rights nationwide and a huge win for states’ rights activists nationwide.
Often brought up when discussing this law is the marijuana laws in certain states. It is easy to see how states like Colorado and California get around federal prohibitions for marijuana possession and draw similar conclusions about suppressor manufacturing. However, regulating drugs and firearms are two different things. Federal law currently has a legal process for owning silencers where such provisions do not exist with marijuana. Additionally, those states have far more marijuana users per capita than Texas does potential suppressor manufacturers or owners, making it tougher for the feds to regulate marijuana versus silencers.
Lastly, since the Texas law would define silencers as firearms, they would still have to be purchased through a firearm dealer or made at home. If it went through a dealer, it would be subject to a background check and all other applicable firearm regulations. If the firearm dealer were audited by the ATF, which happens annually, there would be a record of the silencer sale. This would alert the ATF to enforce federal laws. When it comes to marijuana sales, there are no records of who made a purchase, so customers are not at risk of jail time or fines if the feds step in. That would be the opposite case in Texas.
Governor Abbott signed the bill into law, and that we can continue moving gun rights in a positive direction. Hopefully, we can see “Made in Texas” silencers on the shelves without any federal regulations at some point in the future, but until then...visit Waymore Silencers.