There are many reasons why needing a $200 ATF tax stamp for a suppressor is stupid.
Hearing loss is a health issue with a BILLION dollar financial impact in the United States alone. Employers spend millions and millions of dollars providing hearing protection and developing safety plans for their workers, yet hunters and recreational shooters have to pay a tax and wait for a device to protect their hearing?!
Shooting noise is a volatile community issue. All around the country, ranges are being shut down or tied up in lawsuits due to shooting noise… and yet the government has made it incredibly cumbersome and expensive for shooters to purchase simple devices to abate the root cause of the problem.
A suppressor or silencer can quickly and easily be fabricated by those with nefarious intent. No hit man, thug or criminal is going to go through the paperwork, pay the tax and wait for ATF approval to obtain a suppressor in a legal fashion. They will simply do a google search and fabricate such a device. The Tax Stamp does nothing to prevent crime.
All that said… Here’s some evidence that reflects why the $200 tax stamp for a suppressor is really a bargain compared to the intent of the legislators that passed it:
I quote this from the ATF web site on their page about the History of the National Firearms act.
“While the NFA
was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, the NFA
had an underlying purpose unrelated to revenue collection. As the legislative history of the law discloses, its underlying purpose was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA
firearms. Congress found these firearms to pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, particularly the gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The $200 making and transfer taxes on most NFA
firearms were considered quite severe and adequate to carry out Congress’ purpose to discourage or eliminate transactions in these firearms. The $200 tax has not changed since 1934.”
Now, as you can see, the climate we are in now is not the only time that the political winds were blowing in the face of firearms enthusiasts. Evildoers were doing their evil back in the day, with profits resulting from government mandated prohibitions fueling rampant bloodshed among criminals, with innocents often caught in the crossfire. Then, as now, the tools the criminals used were blamed, not the criminals or the root causes that brought them to commit their crimes… but I digress..
Here’s why the $200 cost of the tax stamp is a value right now.
The $200 fee was originally intended to be so astronomically expensive that it would severely discourage or eliminate transactions in these firearms or devices. According to the Inflation Calculator at DollarTimes.com, $200 in 1934 is equal in buying power to $3,478.80 today. However, I don’t think this is a totally accurate representation. For instance, a brand new ‘middle of the road’ Ford car cost $495, where today a ‘middle of the price range’ Ford costs about $22,000. Timbered land with a homesite here in Cowlitz County, WA, often sold for under $100 an acre in the 1930’s, where it now costs $7,000-$15,000 an acre. In 1934 the average wage for a NYC plumber was $1.50 per hour. Today the pay scale for a NYC Plumber is about $52 an hour. A plumber would have to work nearly a whole month to afford a tax stamp in 1934, when he could buy one with a half a day’s wages today.
So, as we can see, the punitive intent of the original 1934 tax stamp cost has faded, and inflation has dwindled the buying power of the dollar to the point that the outrageous cost of the $200 Tax stamp is now within reasonable reach of the average firearms enthusiast. This makes that Silly $200 stamp a historical bargain!
Now, here’s why I think it might be a great idea to buy one now. We all have recently seen how the winds of political change can dramatically affect the cost and availability of firearms and their accessories. During the recent political pressure to ban modern sporting rifles and their magazines, we saw rifles that normally sold for $500 selling like hotcakes for over $2000, and the shelves were bare and folks were clambering to buy them when they could be delivered. $10 Magpul PMags were being sold for over $100 each, and the shelves were bare. Ammunition prices went through the roof, and we still have not seen a full recovery to normal on that front, as evidenced by the lack of reasonably priced and available .22 LR ammo.
Here’s another example that I think is more applicable. Here is an advertisement from the 1970’s that shows Brand New Colt M-16 select fire weapons for sale for $236.00. Now, to buy this,you would have to live in a state where select fire weapons are legal, such as Oregon, and you would have to buy the $200 tax stamp and get ATF approval to own such a weapon.
Let’s fast forward to today, and check out this link:
That $236 Colt M-16 is now selling for $22,595. That’s right..dang near 1000 times what it originally sold for. Wouldn’t you really like to have a time machine right now?!?!
What changed? The political winds. The ‘Firearms Owners Protection Act’ of 1986. The FOPA banned civilians from ownership of any fully automatic weapon which was not registered as of May 19, 1986. Those folks who already had their weapons were now sitting on a gold mine, as the supply was now locked in and fixed, while the population, demand, and interest could only increase.
How does this relate to Suppressors and the $200 Tax Stamp? I think it’s pretty clear that history is bound to repeat itself, and those that don’t learn from history are bound to make the same mistakes. I was 16 years old in 1986 and unable to purchase a Tax stamp, and frankly, if I found $200, It likely would have went to my immediate need.. reliable transportation so I could get off the Mountain and go see girls!! I do remember reading the pages of the Shotgun News and really wishing I could buy a transferable Auto Sear.
I think if we look to California, Connecticut, Colorado, New York, New Jersey and other places, it’s very clear how the political winds of change can affect gun owners on a State level, and we can look back to 1934, 1968, 1986 and 1994 and see how they can change on a Federal level.
Because of the silly tax stamp law, the production numbers of silencers are fairly low, demand is fairly low, and dealer stock is fairly low. If there were to be a proposed change to the tax stamp cost to increase it to the punitive levels originally intended, or a law banning the sale or transfer of silencers, similar to what FOPA did to machine guns, all inventory would be IMMEDIATELY DEPLETED! You thought it was hard to find an AR-15 in February of 2013, imagine the same level of panic, demand and skyrocketing prices over the small number of suppressors available!
In summary, the whole tax stamp thing is a stupid racket that discourages the purchase and use of devices that minimize an expensive health risk, hearing loss, make better neighbors of firing ranges and firearms enthusiasts, and employ hardworking, earnest, innovative Americans. That said, the current price of the stamp is a historical bargain, and I think if you’ve considered getting one, sooner may very well be better than later.
Fire Mountain Outdoors.