Law & the Courts

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Federal Gun-Suppressor Restrictions

(Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to federal restrictions on gun suppressors, muzzle attachments that muffle the sound of a gunshot, leaving in place a law that requires such devices be registered.

The appeal came from Shane Cox, who owns a military-surplus store in Kansas, and Jeremy Kettler, who purchased a gun suppressor from him. The men were convicted under the National Firearms Act of failing to register the device but appealed the decision, saying the law infringes on their Second Amendment rights. The appeals court then ruled that a suppressor is not a “bearable” weapon protected under the Second Amendment.

Kettler said he bought the suppressor to avoid further harm to his hearing, which was damaged while he served in the military. He said Cox had led him to believe that suppressors made and sold in the same state were not required to be registered.

Controversy over suppressors flared at the end of last month after a gunman killed twelve near Virginia Beach using a firearm equipped with one of the devices, prompting Virginia’s governor to call for bans on them and on high-capacity magazines.

“I will be asking for votes and laws, not thoughts and prayers,” Democratic governor Ralph Northam said after the massacre.

President Trump said last week that he plans to “seriously look at” banning gun suppressors. Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks, devices that permit a semi-automatic weapon to start a continuous firing cycle with only one pull of the trigger.

The process to obtain a permit for a gun suppressor from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is much more involved than the brief check required to purchase a firearm and can last months. Eight states plus Washington, D.C. ban the devices altogether.

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