East Tennessee lawmaker trying to end silencer ban


SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Tennessee State Representative Tilman Goins is taking aim at legalizing silencers in the Volunteer State.

Right now, silencers are one of seven weapons or accessories on Tennessee's no common lawful purpose list. They're joined by explosives, machine guns, short barrel shotguns and brass knuckles. Owning or selling a silencer illegally in Tennessee is a felony punishable with a maximum prison sentence up to six years and a fine up to $3,00 dollars.

The sound of a gunshot registers a decibel level of anywhere between 140 and 190, which is roughly twice as loud as a lawnmower. When a lawful gun owner takes target practice, they need to wear ear protection because the sound of the gun shot can cause ear problems. But with a silencer, that may not be an issue because it can cut the decibel level anywhere between 30 to 60 units.

"It's not silent," Captain Gary Medlin with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office tells News 5. "It's not what you see on television. It's audible but just at a level that's more conducive to saving your hearing."

Silencers are considered Class 3 accessories. Even though Tennessee State law says owning a silencer is illegal, there's a federal law that overrules it, allowing any registered gun owner to purchase a silencer after going through an eight month waiting period and background check.

"It's an expensive process and a very time consuming process," Don Riemer, general manager of Shooting Edge Gun Shop in Piney Flats says. "For a lawful, legal gun owner to purchase anything to do with Class 3."

Captain Medlin tells News 5 he believes there are hundreds of silencers in Sullivan County right now, but they've never had an issue with them.

"I've worked here 28 years and I don't ever remember working a crime involving a suppressor," he says.

He also says a silencer can nearly double the size of a handgun so taking them off the list isn't a concealment issue.

Silencers were originally put on Tennessee's no common lawful purpose list during the great depression to stop people from hunting game out of season and killing their neighbors livestock to feed their family.