LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 24, 2019) – Today, an Arkansas law decriminalizing the manufacture and possession of firearm sound suppressors in the state goes into effect. The new law not only removes a layer of state regulation; it will help foster an environment hostile to federal gun control in Arkansas.
Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville) introduced Senate Bill 400 (SB400) earlier this year. The new law repeals current Arkansas statutes prohibiting the possession, manufacture, transport, repair, or sale of firearm “silencers,” more appropriately referred to as “suppressors.” It also removes a prohibition on a “firearm that has been specially made or specially adapted for silent discharge,” while modifying the prohibition on certain weapons so that a person must “knowingly” possess or sell them.
Suppressors 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 Arkansas Senate passed SB400 by a 29-6 vote. The House approved the measure 75-12. With Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature, the bill went into effect July 24.
The repeal of state suppressor restrictions will not alter federal law, but it does remove a layer of law hindering access to these harmless devices. The widespread easing of suppressor regulation in states subtly undermines federal efforts to unconstitutionally regulate firearms.
This is particularly important given Pres. Donald Trump said he will “seriously look at banning silencers,” after a shooter in Virginia Beach used a handgun with a sound suppressor to kill a dozen people.
“I’d like to think about it. I mean nobody’s talking about silencers very much. I did talk about the bump stock and we had it banned and we’re looking at that. I’m going to seriously look at it. I don’t love the idea of it.”
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 SB400 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 SB400 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.
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