SCOTUS boots challenge to suppressor laws

The challenge to one provision in the National Firearms Act of 1934 probably never stood a chance, and this morning the Supreme Court appeared to confirm that. The portion of the law in question requires individuals to register firearms suppressors (which the media continues to insist on calling “silencers”) and to pay a stiff federal tax when purchasing them. The law was challenged as an infringement of the Second Amendment, but apparently, the justices were having none of it. They declined to hear the case and issued no comment or dissent. (CNN)

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request to take up a challenge to a federal law requiring the registration of some firearms including silencers.

Challengers in the case believe the Second Amendment protects such firearm accessories. An appeals court had held that a silencer is not a “bearable” arm protected by the Constitution.

The case comes as a silencer was used during the recent Virginia Beach massacre and President Donald Trump suggested he’d look into restrictions on gun silencers. The Trump administration had also urged the court not to take up the issue.

The order was issued without comment or recorded dissent.

Previous findings in this challenge were pretty consistent and in keeping with arguments I’ve made in the past. While I don’t agree we should have laws banning suppressors, it’s hard to argue that there’s a Second Amendment debate to be made here. As the lower courts already held, it comes down to what pieces of equipment qualify as a “bearable arm.”

We’ve had the same debate here for bump stocks, and I know many ardent gun rights enthusiasts disagree with me. (Which is fine. It’s still a relatively free country.) Both bump stocks and suppressors are accessories designed to be installed on firearms. You can remove the bump stock or the suppressor and still have a perfectly functional weapon. It may no longer perform the way you would like it to, but it can operate in the manner the manufacturer designed it to operate.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no company manufacturing either rifles or handguns with bump stocks factory-installed and/or unremovable from the firearm. There are some weapons manufactured with a permanently mounted suppressor, but the majority either have threaded barrels designed to accept a suppressor as an accessory or they require a quick-detach device of some kind. Either way, we’re still talking about accessories. Neither a bump stock nor a suppressor is, in and of itself, an example of “arms” that one can “bear.”

In a similar fashion, states could no doubt pass laws banning the leather rifle cases many of us use when carrying a hunting rifle to the field without crossing the line of the Second Amendment. Of course, that would be unlikely in the extreme. (On second thought I should probably stop giving the Democrats ideas.)

As CNN notes, the Supreme Court is scheduled to take up some other Second Amendment cases later in the year, including one challenging another of New York’s ridiculously restrictive gun laws. At that time we will hopefully find out what sort of spine this court has now that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have been seated. But I wouldn’t expect another bite at the firearms accessory apple any time soon.