Owning NFA Items

“Silencers are illegal!” Well no, they really aren’t. While there are many states that restrict the ownership of things like machine guns and suppressors (silencers for you movie types), in general, they are legal to own. Like anything that is fun, it’s taxed. To the best of our knowledge, NFA items are legal for private ownership in the following states: AL, AR, AK, AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, ME, MD, MS, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY. Additionally, they may be owned by Class 3 dealers and Class 2 manufacturers (but not individuals) in: CA, IA, KS, MA, MO, and MI. Territorial law prohibits possession in the Territories and Possessions of the United States. There are no known restrictions on governmental ownership. If your state is not listed, check with your local office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms or your state’s Attorney General.

As with any firearm, an individual owner must take possession through a licensed dealer in his state of residence. In the case of Title 2 weapons (silencers, machine guns, etc.), the dealer must be what is known as a class 3 dealer, meaning that he has paid an annual special occupational tax in conjunction with his firearms license to permit him to deal in Title 2 weapons without paying the individual $200 transfer tax on each weapon.

The $200 transfer tax is assessed each time a Title 2 weapon changes hands. The exceptions are to (or from) a governmental agency or a class 3 dealer. Each time a Title 2 weapon changes hands, the transfer must be approved in advance by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. It normally takes 4-5 weeks or less for BATF to approve the transfer between dealers or to law enforcement agencies, and the transfer to individuals requires 1-2 months. The transfer time used to be much longer, but thanks to the efforts of the NFATCA, this time continues to shrink. The weapon should be ordered through your class 3 dealer. Although you may order direct, it must be delivered through your dealer. We then transfer the weapon to your class 3 dealer. Your dealer will then assist you in completing the necessary paperwork to transfer the weapon to you. This will include your submitting fingerprints and two passport size photos on your application. In addition, your local chief law enforcement officer (sheriff or chief of police) (CLEO) will need to sign the application. Along with your $200 transfer tax, the application is sent to BATF. When the application is approved (and not before), your dealer turns over possession to you.

But what if your CLEO refuses to sign? Unfortunately, this does happen and there’s really not a lot that you can do about it. At this point, if you are determined to follow through on your legal right to own the item, you’ll need to establish some type of bona fide business entity such as a trust, corporation, LLC, etc. Laws on the formation and paperwork vary from state to state, so make sure you get good advice. The good news about ownership through this route is that there is really no way to fingerprint or photograph a corporation or trust, so you can dispense with this part. Make sure that your business has a good succession plan so that the gubbermint doesn’t get your stuff if you should get hit by a bus…

1 Response to “Owning NFA Items”

  1. January 7, 2009 at 11:47 am

    This is the best and most straight forward description of the intricacies of purchasing and owning a suppressed firearm I have read yet. Thanks for taking time to write it.

    I do have a question: If you own more than one pistol or rifle with a threaded barrel, and buy a suppressor for that gun, do you violate any laws by using it on a different gun?

    I guess more to the point is the silencer for H&K interchangeable to a Sig that was not part of the registration? Make the assumption that threads and barrel and caliber are all similar to allow for the suppressor to work on both pistols. Does owning the removable or non-integral suppressor carry additional rules to be aware of?

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November 2007


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