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Are Silencers Illegal in Colorado? Not a Straight Answer!

Silencers (also known as suppressors) are legal in Colorado; however, they are regulated under both federal and state law, and in order to own one, an individual must pass a background check, pay a $200 tax, and register the silencer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What is a Silencer and How Does One Work?

According to Wikipedia, a silencer, commonly referred to as a suppressor or sound moderator, is a muzzle device that reduces the noise and muzzle flash generated by firing a firearm or airgun [1].

It works by controlling the speed and pressure of the propellant gases escaping the muzzle, effectively diminishing the sound of the gunshot and the recoil. Silencers can be either detachable additions that mount onto the gun’s muzzle or integrated components of the barrel.

Constructed typically from metals like stainless steel or titanium, a silencer is shaped like a cylinder and is equipped with several internal baffles. These baffles create a complex path for the propellant gases to follow, extending the duration it takes for the gases to exit the muzzle.

During firing, the bullet passes through the bore with little hindrance, but most of the expanding gas ejecta behind it is redirected through a longer and convoluted escape path created by the baffles, prolonging the release time. This slows down the gas and dissipates its kinetic energy into a larger surface area, reducing the blast intensity, thus lowering the loudness.

There is a common misconception among those unfamiliar with National Firearms Act (NFA) regulations that owning a silencer might be illegal or require a special license. However, this isn’t the case.

Colorado is one of the many states where suppressor ownership is legal. The only thing different from purchasing a firearm is that an NFA item, in this case, a silencer, must be registered with the federal government and a $200 tax stamp purchased for it.

How to Purchase a Silencer

The process of purchasing a suppressor involves several steps:

1. Select Your Suppressor: Initially, you will need to purchase the suppressor before you can physically obtain it. Often, during the paperwork processing period, the suppressor is considered to be “in jail”—a term used by suppressor owners to describe the waiting period until the paperwork is approved.
2. Acquire a Tax Stamp: Currently, the required ATF tax stamp costs $200, a fee set by the federal government and non-negotiable. This cost is paid at the time of purchasing the suppressor.
3. Choose Registration Type: Decide if you will register the suppressor as an individual or under an NFA trust.

  • Individual Registration: This option involves no legal fees, fewer forms, and a reduced likelihood of errors.
  • NFA Trust: Registering under an NFA trust allows for multiple owners, the ability to add new owners at any time, and offers continued property protection after the original owner’s death.

4. Submit the Required ATF Form: This can be a Form 4 or an eForm 4, submitted through a dealer either online or in person.

The application should include:

  • Your personal information, such as your name, address, and Social Security number.
  • The make, model, and serial number of the suppressor.
  • Fingerprint cards.
  • A passport-style photograph.

5. Await Approval: The approval wait time can range from 90 days to up to 9 months, depending on the ATF’s backlog. Occasionally, the process may be quicker than 90 days.

By following these steps, you can navigate the legal requirements for suppressor ownership efficiently and ensure compliance with all federal regulations.

ATF Firearm Silencer Statistics

On Thursday, September 30th, 2021, the ATF unveiled new statistics on suppressors within the 2021 Firearms Commerce in the US report. This comprehensive report sheds light on the overall dynamics of firearms activities in the U.S., including production, sales, imports, exports, and key data regarding National Firearms Act (NFA) items and Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) statistics for the prior year.

Key insights from the report include:

  • As of May 2021, the total count of suppressors recorded in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR) stood at 2,664,775, marking a significant increase of 30% (622,056 additional units) since April 2020.
  • The number of Special Occupational Taxpayer (SOT) dealers experienced a 35% rise in 2020, reaching 10,537, up from 7,806 in 2019.
  • Over the last decade, the average annual growth rate for SOT dealers was 17%.
  • SOT manufacturers saw a 10% increase in 2020, totaling 6,310, up from 5,716 in 2019.
  • The average annual growth rate for SOT manufacturers over the past ten years was 14%.

These statistics underscore a significant expansion in suppressor registrations and indicate a growing interest and activity in the broader firearms market.

Source: American Suppressor Association [2].

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