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Are Silencers Illegal in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Aug 27, 2019 | 0 Comments

gun silencers

Silencers are legal in Colorado. While they are regulated by federal law, they are not prohibited by it. Meanwhile, Colorado's state laws do not ban silencers.

As a result, you can legally own a silencer in Colorado. You just have to register it with the federal government. This registration requires you to pay a tax.

What are silencers?

A silencer is an accessory to a firearm. You can add one to a gun to suppress the noise the gun makes when it is fired. It can also cover the flash of the gun's muzzle when it discharges.

Silencers are also known as:

  • Suppressors,
  • Sound moderators, or
  • Muffler.

Many silencers are manufactured by large companies. However, silencers can also be assembled from other parts. Both of these types of silencers are regulated by gun laws.

Gun laws that regulate silencers can come from the federal government and the state government.

State law in Colorado does not ban silencers

At the state level, gun laws in Colorado do not ban silencers. This is contrary to popular belief. Colorado's gun laws seem to indicate otherwise. This has led to confusion.

In Colorado, CRS 18-12-102 makes it illegal to possess dangerous or illegal weapons. “Dangerous weapons” are:

  • Firearm silencers,
  • Machine guns,
  • Short shotguns,
  • Short rifles, and
  • Ballistic knives.1

People who knowingly possess these “dangerous weapons” commit a Class 5 felony. Subsequent offenses are Class 4 felonies.2

However, there are 3 defenses to a charge for possessing a dangerous weapon. These are:

  1. You are a peace officer, like a police officer,
  2. You are a member of the armed forces and are acting in your lawful discharge of your duties, and
  3. You have a valid permit and license for the dangerous weapon.3

In Colorado, though, you do not need a permit to own a silencer. As a result, you can raise the permit defense if you have been accused of possessing a dangerous weapon under CRS 18-12-102.

Federal law regulates, but does not ban, silencers

Guns are also within the scope of federal law. Those federal gun laws, though, do not ban silencers. Instead, they regulate silencers by requiring silencer owners to:

  • Pay a stamp tax, and
  • Register their silencer.

The federal law that regulates silencers is the National Firearm Act, or NFA. The NFA puts firearms and accessories into categories. Silencers fall into Class 3 NFA items.

The NFA regulates Class 3 items at the point of transfer.

In order to buy a silencer, you have to:

  • Pass a background check,
  • Pay a $200 stamp tax to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and
  • File paperwork to have your silencer registered in a national registry.

That paperwork requires lots of personal information, including:

  • Your name and address,
  • Your photograph,
  • Your fingerprints, and
  • Information about the silencer you are buying.

You will have to send this paperwork to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. You will also have to send a copy to your local law enforcement agency. This additional copy is to notify the local police of your purchase of a Class 3 NFA item.

What you cannot do with a silencer

Federal and state law does not ban silencers. However, their regulations can prohibit you from doing certain things with one:

  • You cannot commit a crime with one, and
  • You may not be able to bring a silencer outside of Colorado without taking certain steps, first.

Committing a crime with a silencer

Silencers are legal to use for any lawful purpose in Colorado. Using a silencer for an unlawful purpose, like a crime, can break the law. This would add criminal charges to your case. You could face federal charges, as well.

Bringing a silencer outside of Colorado

Different states have different gun laws. Some states have made silencers illegal. Even if the state has not banned silencers, they may regulate them under state law. In either case, you could face legal problems if you bring your silencer outside of Colorado.

The following states have banned silencers:

  • California,4
  • Delaware,5
  • Washington, D.C.,6
  • Hawaii,7
  • Illinois,8
  • Massachusetts,9
  • New Jersey,10
  • New York,11 and
  • Rhode Island.12

Other states may have regulations that you have to comply with before crossing state lines. Unlike for other Class 3 NFA items, federal law does not require you to notify the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives before crossing state lines with a silencer.


References:

  1. C.R.S. § 18-12-102(1).

  2. C.R.S. § 18-12-102(3).

  3. C.R.S. § 18-12-102(5).

  4. California Penal Code § 33410.

  5. 11 Del. Code Ann., § 1444.

  6. D.C. Code § 22-4514.

  7. Hawaii Rev. Stat. §134-8.

  8. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-1(a)(6).

  9. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 10A.

  10. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-3(c).

  11. N.Y. Penal Code §§ 265.02 and 265.10.

  12. R.I. Gen. Stat. § 11-47-20.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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