US appeals court blocks challenge to federal firearm silencer law News
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US appeals court blocks challenge to federal firearm silencer law

The US Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit blocked an appeal Friday from Texas gun owners and state Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking judicial approval of a Texas gun law that exempts the state from federal firearm silencer regulations.

In a short 14-page decision the court affirmed a lower court decision dismissing the case for lack of standing. Standing is a doctrine that courts require for an individual’s grievance to be heard. It requires an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to a defendant’s conduct and the potential for redress or remedy from the court. The court held that the plaintiffs in the case failed to establish an actual injury or that actual harm was imminent.

Federal law requires that a person who wishes to make a firearm silencer pay a $200 excise tax, apply for a permit, and upon approval, register the device with National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. The individual would then have to mark the silencer with a serial number. Manufacture of the device is illegal without permit approval and carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or up to 10 years in jail. or both.

Silencers or suppressors are auxiliary firearm devices that reduce the volume of noise generated when a weapon is fired.

The Fifth Circuit’s judgment noted, “In 2021 Texas enacted a law providing that ‘a firearm suppressor that is manufactured in [Texas] and remains in [Texas] is not subject to federal law or regulation.” The law laid out a plan for individuals who wanted to make a suppressor, requiring them to provide “written notification” to the state attorney general who would then seek a declaratory judgment that federal law did not conflict with the state law exempting suppressors from the federal regulations.

In this case, the plaintiffs also sought injunctive relief against the federal regulation. The state argued that standing existed on several grounds as well including its right to “vindicate its ‘quasi-sovereign interest in its citizen’s health and well-being'” and “its sovereign interest in the power to create and enforce a legal code.”

The court dispensed with both arguments, writing that “Texas’s asserted quasi-sovereign interest is wholly derivative of the personal Second Amendment interests of its citizens and therefore not a valid quasi-sovereign interest at all.” The court wrote that the latter argument was not implicated in this case and that laws that immunize state citizens from federal law were void since states lack the ability to nullify federal regulations as a matter of “black letter law.”

The decision comes on the heels of a US Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal ban on bump stocks and an announcement from the Department of Justice that they would expand background check requirements for gun dealers.