NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 5, 2017) – Last week, a new Tennessee law went into effect decriminalizing the manufacture and possession of firearm suppressors in the state. The new law not only removes a layer of state regulation, it will help foster an environment hostile to federal gun control in Tennessee.
Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) sponsored Senate Bill 921 (SB921). Rep. Tilman Goins sponsored the House companion bill (HB11). Titled the “Tennessee Hearing Protection Act,” the new law repealed Tennessee statutes prohibiting the possession, manufacture, transport, repair, or sale of firearm “silencers,” more appropriately referred to as “suppressors.”
These devices simply muffle the sound of a gun. They do not literally silence firearms. Nevertheless, the federal government heavily regulates silencers under the National Firearms Act. The feds charge a $200 tax on the purchase of the devices. Buying one also requires months-long waits after filing extensive paperwork with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The House passed SB921 by a 74-18 vote. The Senate approved the measure 28-1. With Haslam’s signature, the law went into effect on July 1.
The repeal of state suppressor restrictions does not alter federal law, but it does remove a layer of law hindering access to these harmless devices. Widespread easing of suppressor regulation in states subtly undermines federal efforts to unconstitutionally regulate firearms.
As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity. Or when the state decriminalizes and people start ignoring the federal prohibition without any further state “permission” to do so.
Either way, the federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban in such a climate, and people will increasingly take on the risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive state gun laws such as SB921 can have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce federal gun control, should the people defy it, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with future federal enforcement efforts.
State actions like SB921 lower barriers for those wanting to the option of defending themselves with firearms and encourage a “gun-friendly” environment that would make federal efforts to limit firearms that much more difficult.