As New York gun rights attorneys we are carefully monitoring an increasing regulatory environment of everything related to firearms and an increasing number of gun owners who are receiving letters from law enforcement. Recently we were consulted by a person who received a letter from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) concerning a solvent catcher that he had purchased years ago.
The problem arises due to the National Firearms Act (NFA) which put suppressors or silencers as they are commonly known in the same category of fully automatic machine guns and sawed off shotguns, making them highly regulated and requiring a background check, tax stamp, and long wait to legally own. The do-it-yourself market which has become a lucrative market in general has also become popular among firearms enthusiasts many of whom enjoy building, modifying and customizing firearms and gun parts. The same is true for the suppressor industry.
In an August 2019 article in the Verge, an article in which I was quoted, the writer details the wide availability of items such as “solvent traps”, “flashlight tubes”, barrel shrouds, fuel filters and solvent filters that can be used to make suppressors or silencers. In addition, a search on Amazon for solvent trap at the time of writing this article produced a variety of items including a 1/2X28 tap and die set ideal for threading a 9mm barrel and a device for attaching to a 9mm barrel.
It is important to understand that making a suppressor at home is not illegal. Rather as long as a person registers the device and submits to a background check, the process is completely legal. In fact with wait times that often hover around 1 year to get approval to purchase a suppressor after filing an ATF form 4, the process to get approval for a newly manufactured suppressor can be substantially shorter.
The letter recently received by an upstate New York client from the ATF warned that it is a felony to possess an unregistered silencer. The letter was apparently sent to customers after the customer lists were seized by the ATF after the seller of solvent traps was raided. The letter states that the ATF received information that you recently purchased or attempted to purchase one or more “silencer kits\silencers or silencer parts”. The letter implies that the NFA checked to see if the purchaser had registered anything. The letter demands that the purchaser contact the ATF within 30 days to surrender the silencer.
It is important that anyone who receives a letter from any law enforcement agency consider contacting a lawyer before responding. As we wrote in a recent blog, hundreds if not thousands of gun owners in Suffolk County were contacted by the Suffolk County Police about “others” that were lawfully purchased at Jerry’s Firearms and which the Suffolk County Police considered illegal. This trend is likely to be repeated as new laws regulating eighty percent lowers and other firearms parts become effective.
Our firm represents gun owners in regards to licensing, possession of weapons that are thought to be illegal or unlicensed and with regard to both civil and criminal enforcement.