(Getty/Bill Chizek)

Supreme Court rejects challenges to gun silencer laws days after Virginia Beach massacre

Debate over regulation of gun silencers renewed last week after gunman used one in a shooting rampage in Virginia


Shira Tarlo
June 10, 2019 8:05PM (UTC)

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request to take up a pair of cases challenging a federal law requiring the registration of gun silencers mere days after a gunman used one in a shooting rampage in Virginia Beach which left 12 people dead.

The justices, in an order issued without comment or recorded dissent, said they would not take up the cases of two Kansas men challenging the National Firearms Act of 1934 after they were convicted for failing to register their gun silencers, firearm attachments designed to suppress the sound of a gunshot.

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The two men — Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler — had separately appealed their convictions to the nation's highest court and asked the justices to consider if gun silencers are protected under the Second Amendment. They argued that their constitutional right "to keep and bear arms" includes silencers.

President Donald Trump reportedly asked the court to stay out of the case and leave the convictions in place.

Cox, owner of "Tough Guys" army-surplus store, was convicted of manufacturing and selling unregistered silencers, while Kettler was convicted of possessing one. The two men were sentenced to one year of probation.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld both of their convictions last year, ruling that a silencer is not a "bearable" arm protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The National Firearms Act requires individuals to register silencers and pay a federal tax of about $200 "upon the manufacture, importation or transfer of an NFA firearm."

In the wake of the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia, Trump said he would "think about" banning noise suppressors.

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"I'd like to think about it. I mean nobody's talking about silencers very much," he said. "I'm going to seriously look at it. I don't love the idea of it."

Trump has faced criticism throughout his White House tenure over a lack of action to curb gun violence, despite the epidemic of mass shootings and the rising number of deaths from firearm injuries in the U.S.

"What's happening is crazy. It's crazy what's going on with schools and not only in our country," Trump said earlier this month when asked about recent gun violence.

There have been 165 mass shootings in country in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Trump, who recently spoke at the National Rifle Association convention, has defended guns.

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"Gun owners make our communities safer and they make our nation stronger," he told NRA supporters in April.

Following a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in October 2017, which killed 59 people and injured at least 527 others, the White House banned bump stocks, a device prominently used in the massacre, which allows a semi-automatic to work like a machine gun.

Trump had urged the federal government to ban bump stocks after the Valentine's Day shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead. The president, at the time, also vowed to take action to limit gun violence, noting his support for raising the age for purchasing a firearm. Trump, however, ultimately walked back his support for raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms after he met with NRA leaders who forcefully opposed that proposal, along with Trump's earlier endorsement of universal background checks for gun purchases.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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