Criminal Use of Firearm Silencers

CLARK, P.A. Criminal Use of Firearm Silencers – / Western Criminology Review 8(2), 44–57 (2007)

Abstract: Both the public and sentencing judges regard silenced firearms as more dangerous than ordinary unsilenced firearms, and the federal penalty for possession of a silenced firearm during crime is a 30-year mandatory minimum. The assumption that silenced firearms are more dangerous than ordinary firearms has never been empirically researched. This study examines federal and state court data to compile statistics on who is being prosecuted for possession of silencers and what crimes they are used to commit. This data indicates that both on the federal and state level those prosecuted for crimes involving silencers are far less likely to have a criminal record, and are far less likely to actively use their weapon than those people convicted using ordinary unsilenced firearms. The data indicates that use of silenced firearms in crime is a rare occurrence, and is a minor problem. Moreover, the legislative history of silencer statutes indicates that these provisions were adopted with little or no debate. The silencer penalty has been justified by a need to crack down on “professional criminals” or to punish people using “dangerous weapons.” The evidence suggests that 30-year minimum sentences make no sense. Mandatory minimums should be repealed and sentencing judges permitted to treat each case on an individualized basis.
Keywords: firearm; silencer; suppressor; sentencing; gun crime


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