Most people are familiar with gun silencers, also known as suppressors, from movies. While Nebraska laws regulate the sale, possession and ownership of firearms, silencers, suppressors or mufflers are not mentioned in any legislation.
Nebraska is one of 42 states where these gun accessories are legal – customers can buy them online or in person, and dealers will often help them fill out the necessary paperwork for registering them with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
What Is a Silencer?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a firearm silencer or muffler is "any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm, including any combination of parts, designed or redesigned, and intended for the use in assembling or fabricating a firearm silencer or firearm muffler, any part intended only for use in such assembly or fabrication."
This device attaches to a firearm's barrel to reduce the sound and visible muzzle flash that occurs when firing a weapon. The ATF considers silencers in the category of Class 3 Firearms.
Class 3 Firearms
On June 26, 1934, Congress passed the National Firearms Act (NFA) to regulate the use of specific firearms to promote public safety. The Act taxed the creation and transfer of these weapons, put an occupational tax on those who imported, manufactured or sold them, and required their registration with the Secretary of the Treasury.
Per federal law, Class 3 firearms include:
- Suppressors or silencers.
- Short barrel shotguns and rifles.
- Explosive devices, including grenades.
- Machine guns with receivers, allowing fully automatic or rapid burst fire.
Requirements for Owning a Suppressor
To legally buy or possess a suppressor in the U.S., a gun owner must:
- Be at least 21 years old to buy a silencer from a dealer.
- Be at least 18 years old to buy a silencer from an individual using a Form 4 transfer.
- Be at least 18 years of age to possess a suppressor as a trust beneficiary or a corporation member.
- Be a United States resident.
- Be legally eligible to buy a firearm.
- Pass a BATFE background check, which has a processing time of 8 to 10 months.
- Pay a one-time transfer tax of $200.
- Live in one of the 42 states allowing individuals to own silencers.
Documents Required for Purchase of a Suppressor
When a person is ready to buy a suppressor, they submit certain documents to the ATF Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO). These documents may vary depending upon their purchase method but typically include:
- ATF Form 4.
- Passport photos.
- FBI FD-258 fingerprint cards.
- ATF Form 5320.23 Responsible Person Questionnaire.
- Copy of trust documents if applicable.
- $200 Transfer Tax per suppressor.
- CLEO notification.
Attempt to Curb Sale of Silencers in Nebraska
In 2018, a bill banning multi-burst trigger activators and silencers was proposed by Nebraska Senator Patty Pansing Brooks and cosponsored by four other lawmakers. The idea for the legislation came about after a mass shooting in 2017 in Las Vegas that killed 61 people.
The bill didn't make it very far – just three months after its introduction, it was indefinitely postponed. As of 2022, silencers remain legal in Nebraska.
Age Requirements for Owning Firearms in Nebraska
Nebraska prohibits an individual under 18 years of age from possessing a firearm, but this rule does not apply to the temporary loaning of handguns to minors under the immediate supervision of a parent, guardian or adult instructor.
The state also prohibits individuals from intentionally and knowingly transferring a firearm to a juvenile or attempting to transfer a firearm to anyone under 18 years old. However, Nebraska does not prohibit the transfer of a long gun to a minor under certain circumstances:
- Minor is related to the transferor of the long gun within two degrees of kinship and the transfer of the long gun's physical possession does not occur until the minor's parent or guardian grants their express permission.
- Minor is under an adult's direct supervision in an appropriate educational program.
- For a lawful and legitimate sporting purpose.
Individuals must be at least 21 years old to acquire a handgun purchase certificate or concealed handgun permit. Both are necessary to lease, purchase, rent or receive a handgun's transfer from an unlicensed person.
Firearms and Convictions Under Nebraska State Law
Federal firearms laws generally prohibits people from buying or owning firearms if they have a felony conviction, domestic violence misdemeanors, or they are subject to specific court orders regarding domestic violence or a serious mental condition. Nebraska has laws based on federal law that prohibit certain individuals from buying or owning guns:
- Those with a felony conviction.
- Those who are fugitives from justice.
- Individuals with a domestic violence, harassment or sexual assault protection order and who are knowingly in violation of these orders.
- Individuals convicted of a misdemeanor for domestic violence within the past seven years.
- Individuals under 25 who had previously been in juvenile court for an act of constituting a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence.
Despite these regulations, Nebraska does not have any laws preventing the purchase or possession of firearms by certain individuals, including persons convicted of violent misdemeanors (with the exception of a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction), those with severe mental illness, or those who have a substance abuse disorder.
- Fox Nebraska: Manufacturer Talks Silencers as Ban Is Discussed in Legislature
- ATF.gov: Responsible Person Questionnaire
- American Suppressor Association: How to Purchase a Suppressor
- ATF.gov: National Firearms Act (NFA) Responsible Person Questionnaire (ATF Form 5320.23)
- ATF.gov: Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm
- American Suppressor Association: Education
- Nebraska Legislature: B780 - Prohibit Manufacture, Import, Transfer, and Possession of Multiburst Trigger Activators and Firearm Silencers
- ATF.gov: National Firearms Act Handbook
- ATF.gov: Firearms - Guides - Importation & Verification of Firearms - National Firearms Act Definitions - Silencer
- World Population Review: Suppressor Laws by State 2022
- Giffords.org: Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess in Nebraska
- Giffords.org: Firearm Prohibitions in Nebraska
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.