Silencers are among the most highly regulated gun accessories in the country — and have been for nearly a century, since an explosion of crime and gun violence during the Prohibition era prompted the enactment of the 1934 National Firearms Act. Under federal law, consumers are required to apply for a license to purchase a silencer, an often-lengthy process that involves paying a fee to the ATF and submitting to extensive screening.
In recent years, however, it’s gotten easier to skirt the rules. The Trace’s Champe Barton reported in 2019 that the online market for homemade silencers was booming, with retailers selling de facto parts under names like “barrel shrouds,” “flashlight tubes,” and “solvent traps.” As Barton wrote at the time, the flourishing market for homemade silencers showed “how difficult it can be to enforce regulations on guns and gun products when those regulations hinge on precise technical specifications.”
The ATF, which has long struggled to keep up with the DIY market, last month published an open letter to all federal firearms licensees to clarify the legality of products like “solvent traps.” The agency warned that the label doesn’t matter — if it’s used to quiet the sound of a gunshot, federal restrictions apply.
As USA TODAY’s Nick Penzenstadler reported this week, the ATF’s efforts to tamp down on the homemade silencer market became the subject of controversy last year, after a viral cellphone video showed agents demanding that a Florida man turn over one of the accessories. The popularity of the video illustrates the rising tension over the agency’s attempts to regulate other gun accessories like bump stocks and switches. “For dedicated gun enthusiasts and the gun lobby,” Penzenstadler writes, “the moves all fall under the same category: It’s no conspiracy theory — they’re coming for our guns.”
What to Know Today
In 2017, executives at the chat platform Discord banned prominent far-right groups and promised to clean up the service. But far-right extremists — including the white supremacist who carried out a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, last year — continued to call it home. Why are racist and antisemitic communities still flourishing there? [The Washington Post]
Savannah Ryan Williams, a 38-year-old trans woman, was shot in the head at close range in Minneapolis last month. Prosecutors charged the suspected gunman with second-degree murder. Queer activists in Minnesota, where the “LGBTQ+ panic defense” is not banned, say the killing should be treated as a hate crime. [NBC]
Chicagoans may soon be able to call 311 to report swastika graffiti, white supremacist pamphlets, and other “hate incidents” that can precede violent hate crimes. The “Chi vs. Hate” ordinance comes amid a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic episodes, including hate crimes involving guns. [Chicago Sun-Times]
It’s been three years since Angela Bivens’s son, Aurtrell, was shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but the men accused of the crime — three of whom have since been arrested for other offenses — have yet to stand trial. The case is a snapshot of the slow churn of the city’s criminal legal system and the cycle of gun violence that has ensnared many of its young residents. [The Advocate]
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, is drafting legislation that would direct the military to use state crisis intervention laws to seize firearms from people deemed dangerous, in response to the October shooting in Lewiston. The bill is supported by an influential Maine gun rights group. [Maine Public]
Some of the Los Angeles Police Department’s newest officers are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy — and prohibited by federal law from possessing guns or ammunition. The department announced that it plans to adjust its policies to allow the city’s first noncitizen members of the force to possess their guns while off duty. [NBC Los Angeles]
Six years ago, the podcast “S-Town” brought fame to the inhabitants of the small, rural town of Woodstock, Alabama — but not much else. Then last week, the fatal police shooting of Tyler Goodson, a central figure in the series whose life began to unravel after it aired, is renewing questions about the ethics of publicizing private misery. [The Guardian]
7 in 10 — the proportion of transgender and gender nonconforming people killed between November 21, 2022, through November 20, 2023, who were trans women. [Human Rights Campaign]