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Supreme Court rejects challenge to gun-silencer registration law

Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court turned away challenges to a federal law that requires registration of gun silencers, the accessory that has drawn new scrutiny after it was used in a mass shooting in Virginia.

The justices, without comment Monday, left intact the conviction of Jeremy Kettler, a Kansas man sentenced to one year of probation after a jury found him guilty of possessing an unregistered silencer.

The court also rebuffed Shane Cox, owner of the army-surplus store that sold Kettler the item. Cox was convicted and sentenced to two years' probation on charges that included selling the silencer.

Kettler and Cox argued that the Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees the right to own a silencer. Kettler also said the 1934 National Firearms Act, which imposes the registration requirement along with a $200 tax, exceeds Congress's power.

A federal appeals court upheld the law, saying the Second Amendment doesn't cover silencers. The panel also pointed to a 1937 Supreme Court decision that said the measure was a valid use of Congress's taxing power.

Kettler says he bought the silencer to protect his ears while hunting and target shooting. He says he suffered hearing damage from service in the U.S. Army.

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The May 31 shooting in Virginia Beach prompted President Donald Trump to say he will "seriously look" at banning silencers altogether. A gunman with a silencer killed 12 people at a municipal center.

Kettler and Cox also said they thought they were legally protected by a Kansas law aimed at protecting gun accessories that are manufactured and possessed within the state's borders.

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