Supreme Court Declines To Hear Multi-State Challenge To Firearms Suppressor Laws

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Posted: Jun 11, 2019 9:25 PM
Supreme Court Declines To Hear Multi-State Challenge To Firearms Suppressor Laws

Source: AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday declined to hear Jeremy Kettler v. United States, which challenges the constitutionality of the National Firearms Act of 1934, specifically in relation to firearms suppressors. The NFA requires a $200 fee, an application and registration of suppressors, machine guns and other specified firearms.

Kettler joined the military after graduating from high school. He was deployed overseas, where "he was decorated for his actions in combat," the court petition said. "As a result of his service, Mr. Kettler became medically disabled and was discharged honorably. After leaving the service, he returned to his boyhood home [in Kansas]." 

According to Kettler's original petition, he purchased a suppressor from a military surplus store. He was interested in the suppressor because he sustained hearing damage as a result of his military service but he was still interested in hunting and target shooting. On the shelf next to the suppressor was a copy of Kansas’ Second Amendment Protection Act.

"The Kansas Act provided that 'a firearm accessory ... manufactured commercially or privately and owned in Kansas and that remains within the borders of Kansas is not subject to any federal law,'" the petition read. "The Act further provided that the term 'firearm accessory' was inclusive of 'sound suppressors.'”

Kettler took videos of him utilizing his suppressor and posted it on Facebook. Agents at the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were made aware of the situation. 

Shane Cox, the owner of the military surplus store where Kettler purchased the suppressor, was convicted of making and transferring an unregistered silencer. Kettler was convicted of possessing an unregistered NFA firearm. Both men were sentenced to probation.

The case was brought about by Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Attorney Generals from Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho, Montana, South Carolina, Texas and Utah joined the suit.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the hills of the Virginia Beach shooting where the gunman utilized a suppressor to carry out the attack. Following the attack, President Donald Trump told Piers Morgan he "would consider" banning suppressors, just like he did with bump stocks following the Las Vegas massacre. 

Various pro-gun groups were disappointed in the decision, especially when the industry, as a whole, pushed for the Hearing Protection Act, which would remove the $200 tax and registration requirements the NFA imposes. Under the HPA, suppressors would be treated the same as a firearm, where a buyer has to go through a background check via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

"The firearms industry believes this is a practical step to alleviate the burden in those who purchase suppressors. It would also allow the ATF to reallocate resources to enforcement in areas where it is more effectively contribute to public safety," the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Director of Public Affairs, Mark Oliva, told Townhall. "Suppressors are simply an accessory to a firearm and in many European countries with strict gun control laws, suppressors are available over the counter. In fact, some countries require their use for hunting to diminish the noise associated with gunfire."

“The decision by the Supreme Court to deny cert in the Kettler case is deeply disappointing. Jeremy Kettler was a victim of Eric Holder’s Justice Department, who prosecuted a disabled veteran for a ‘crime’ where no one was hurt, injured or killed," GOA Executive Director Eric Pratt said in a statement. “The Obama Justice Department brought criminal felony charges against Kettler for illegally possessing an unregistered firearm suppressor that was made in Kansas and never left the state. Kettler was prosecuted despite the fact that Kansas’ ‘Second Amendment Protection Act’ protected his actions."

"FPC's position is that firearm components like suppressors are not only constitutionally-protected instruments that should be completely accessible to all law-abiding people throughout the United States, they are important personal safety equipment. We remain absolutely committed to restoring the Constitution's limits on government and protecting the rights and property of the People," Brandon Combs, President of the Firearms Policy Coalition, told Townhall.

“This was not unexpected. The defendants broke federal law in making and selling without a federal license. The advice they took to do it was not good. They were lucky to only get a sentence of probation," Alan Gottlieb, Founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation told Townhall.“I think that SCOTUS will consider other additional Second Amendment cases in the near future.”

The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to Townhall's request for comment. This post has been updated with a quote from the Second Amendment Foundation.