While its name is slightly misleading because it's impossible to completely silence any firearm, a silencer does muffle the sound of a gun discharging, making it a popular accessory for hunting and fishing enthusiasts. In 42 U.S. states, private ownership of a silencer without a permit is legal, but in other states, including California, private ownership of silencers is not permitted.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
It's illegal to own a silencer in California, although exceptions are made for certain firearms manufacturers, peace officers and active military personnel in the state.
What Is a Silencer?
Silencer is another term for a suppressor, a firearms noise reduction device. It's a black cylinder that screws to the end of a gun, from pistols to rifles, and is designed to reduce the noise of the gun discharging. The term silencer also includes any part or combination of parts intended for use in assembling or producing a silencer. Despite the term and what you see in the movies, silencers don't actually completely silence the noise of a gun shot, they simply muffle it.
Benefits of Silencers
Since the primary function of a silencer is to reduce the sound made when a firearm is discharged, it may protect both shooters and bystanders from long-term effects of gunshot noise. A silencer is popular with many hunters because it also reduces recoil, thereby improving accuracy and increasing second-shot opportunities.
Are Silencers Legal in California?
In California, owning a silencer is a felony. If you are found guilty of possession of a silencer, you can be incarcerated, fined up to $10,000, or both. Officers of the military in the course of their official duties; full-time peace officers, including but not restricted to police officers, sheriffs and special agents in the course of their duties; and dealers or manufacturers of firearms who are properly licensed in accordance with applicable state or federal laws are exempt.
Proposed Change to Silencer Laws in California
In 2017, Senate Bill 710 was introduced to legalize silencer ownership for use while hunting in California. The bill proposed allowing any individual in lawful possession of a licensed silencer to use it for hunting or fishing. It also proposed repealing the state's felony prohibition on possession of a silencer. However, the bill failed at the first hearing in January 2018.
- California Firearms Laws 2007
- California Legislative Information: SB-710 Silencers
- California Legislative Information: Chapter 9. Silencers [33410 - 33415]
- California Legislative Information: Division 2. Definitions [16100 - 17360]
- California Legislative Information: Chapter 4.5. Peace Officers [830 - 832.18]
- Game & Fish: Can I Hunt Deer With Suppressors?
- USA Today: What Shooting With the NRA Revealed About Silencers
- OSHA Technical Manual: Noise