Supreme Court Rebuffs Bid to Expand Legal Protections for Gun Silencers

REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away a bid to widen legal protections for gun silencers in a case involving two Kansas men convicted for failing to register the devices as required by federal law, as the justices again sidestepped a chance to rule on the scope of the right to bear arms.

The justices declined to hear appeals by the two men, Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler, and left in place their convictions in cases brought by federal prosecutors. The men had asked the court to decide whether silencers – muzzle attachments that suppress the sound of a gunshot – are covered by the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms.

The court’s action came in the aftermath of a May 31 mass shooting in the Virginia coastal city of Virginia Beach in which a gunman who killed 12 people used weapons including a handgun equipped with a silencer.

President Donald Trump, a Republican with a close relationship to the National Rifle Association pro-gun lobby, said in an interview aired on June 5 that he does not like silencers and would be open to considering banning the devices. His administration this year imposed a ban on “bump stock” attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to be fired rapidly, with the Supreme Court in March permitting the policy to take effect.

Kettler and Cox were prosecuted together in 2014 after Kettler purchased a silencer from Cox’s military surplus store in Chanute, Kansas. Both were prosecuted under a federal law called the National Firearms Act, which requires registration of certain firearms, with silencers included in a list of covered items along with grenades, machine guns and bombs.

Cox was convicted of possessing an unregistered silencer as well as an unregistered short-barreled rifle and transferring unregistered silencers. Kettler was convicted of possessing an unregistered silencer.

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld both men’s convictions last year, prompting them to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In January, the Supreme Court agreed to hear its biggest gun rights case since 2010, taking up a challenge to New York City’s strict limits on handgun owners transporting their firearms outside the home.

New York officials are considering revising the measure, which may lead to the Supreme Court case becoming moot before the justices hear arguments in their next term, which begins in October.

The court in recent years has been reluctant to take up gun cases and has yet to decide whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry guns in public, a question left unanswered in its two most recent gun-related decisions.

In its 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, the court held that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms. In its 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago ruling, the court held that the earlier ruling applied to the states.

The court currently has two appeals pending that ask for the justices to rule that the right to bear arms extends outside the home, as well as two other gun-related cases. The justices may be waiting for the New York case to be resolved before deciding what moves to take on the other cases.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Richard J Ligarzewski
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Richard J Ligarzewski

I am a legally licensed gun owner and I have been licensed in two states My license in Florida is a concealed carry right to use any weapon of my choice. This licensed has reciprocity in thirty seven other states in America. My license in Nassau county, NY is a very restricted one. I may own several handguns kept locked in my own home to use for target shooting or to protect my home from villains entering my home. I am unable to protect myself outside of my home which I think is a denial of my second amendment rights.… Read more »

Harold Morris
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Harold Morris

If it were up to OSHA or the CDC, they would be mandatory. The noise generated by a firearm is not completely silenced by such devices, but it is mediated, making their use a valid health and safety concern.

Richard J Ligarzewski
Guest
Richard J Ligarzewski

When I shoot my handguns, I wear ear protection for my hearing safety. What is the valid health reason?

WayHungLow
Guest
WayHungLow

Any target I shoot doesn’t have ears so a silencer is useless to me.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara

These silencers should not ever be on the market for anyone to buy and the only ones who should have these are special forces in the military and police in order to keep the world safe.

Mario Ortega
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Mario Ortega

Ma’am, For those vexed by feral hogs a silencer mitigates the scattering upon hearing the gun report. This is the main hunting use for the device.

Richard L Ligarzewski
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Richard L Ligarzewski

Very good point, but not many people percentage wide hunt with a silencer.

Screwtape
Member

I USED to have a variety of suppressors (including one for my shotguns) before a tragic waterskiing accident.

Shame, considering the time and $$ I spent.

Screwtape
Member

Suppressors. Interesting that one can literally buy them over the counter in so many “gun controlled” countries.

I wonder, when the gun-control crowd holds up these countries as models, that they fail to mention that fact.

With an adapter and access to an auto parts store one can easily make one. Legality is another matter.

Chris Brosnahan
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Chris Brosnahan

Dunno why the case even made it as far as being referred to SCOTUS…There’s always been a $200 Tax on Title II items…pay the damn tax and avoid the legal hassle!!!

Terry L
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Terry L

First there is NO SUCH THING AS A SILENCER they are called suppressors because despite HOLLYWOOD FICTION they do not silence a gun they simply SUPPRESS the sound to a level that protects hearing using the SAME TECHNOLOGY found in the mufflers used on gas powered engines. Gas powered engines are simply CONTROLLED gunfire that propel the pistons down the CYLINDER if they were not attached to a crankshaft that RELOADS the cylinder by pushing the previous PISTON back into position for its next firing they would in fact be classified as MACHINE GUNS as they repetitively fire as long… Read more »

Phyllis Softa
Member

So why did those in the VA Beach municipal parking lot not know the first victim was shoot in his car? WHY did those in the building say it sounded “like a nail gun”? 911 was NOT called after the first victim. But unlike Hollywood Fiction, the victims are REALLY DEAD. One day America will care more about human lives than gun rights. I don’t see that day in my lifetime.

Screwtape
Member

All true, but we’re dealing with a crowd that considers semi-automatic firearms to be “assault weapons”. I still love the “thing that flips up” comment.

This bit of misinformation either shows ignorance or cynical and purposeful demagoguery. Most likely both.

Jule Ray Westcott
Guest
Jule Ray Westcott

Just like there are no assault rifles. It is all in the cosmetics.

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