Tenth Amendment Center ~
AUSTIN, Texas (June 15, 2021) – Today, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that takes the first two steps against National Firearms Act (NFA) restrictions on firearm sound suppressors.
Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) filed House Bill 957 (HB957) on Jan. 4. The legislation repeals Texas code criminalizing owning a firearm “silencer,” more accurately referred to as a sound “suppressor” – outside of Federal regulations. It also bans the state from enforcing any federal restrictions on suppressors that don’t exist under the laws of the state.
On May 4, the Texas House passed HB957 by a vote of 95-51. 14 Democrats joined 81 Republicans in voting yes. The full Senate passed it by a party-line vote of 18-13. With Abbott’s signature, the new law goes into effect on Sept. 1.
Suppressors simply muffle the sound of a gun. They do not literally silence firearms. Nevertheless, the federal government heavily regulates silencers under the National Firearms Act. The feds charge a $200 tax on the purchase of the devices. Buying one also requires months-long waits after filing extensive paperwork with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The repeal of state suppressor restrictions will not alter federal law, but it does remove a layer of law hindering access to these devices. The widespread easing of suppressor regulation in states subtly undermines federal efforts to unconstitutionally regulate firearms. Banning enforcement of federal restrictions is particularly important in light of not just restrictions under the NFA, but proposals from Congress and the Biden administration to ban them completely.
HB957 includes provisions to exempt suppressors made and sold in Texas from federal regulations under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, although this section of the act is unlikely to have immediate impact without approval of a federal court.