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It Makes Guns Louder, but ATF Says It's a Silencer

It Makes Guns Louder, but ATF Says It's a Silencer

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April 25, 2014

If you can kill someone with a number two lead pencil, does that mean the pencil companies are actually in the weapons business?

Or how about Apple, if you arrange a hit via your iPhone?

The ATF is being sued for a decision only slightly more reasonable. Gun maker Sig Sauer created a product called a “muzzle brake,” which reduces the recoil when you fire the gun it’s attached to. The device makes the gun louder, the company says , but the ATF classified it as a silencer. That made it subject to heavy regulations that wouldn’t otherwise apply—and may make it difficult or impossible to sell . The reason: It is possible, by adding another part, to make the muzzle brake into a silencer. Thus, the ATF said the muzzle brake was a silencer part .

It gets dumber: The law the ATF was supposed to apply does not say that anything that can be used to make a silencer is a silencer. It says a part “intended only” to be used to make a silencer is a silencer. But as Sig Sauer pointed out, the muzzle brake has another purpose: to reduce recoil.

Sig Sauer responded to the ATF’s determination with thirteen pages of evidence and argument on the law and the facts. It discussed the tests it had done on its product, and it pointed out that similar products were already on the market—and not regulated as silencers. The ATF sent a three-paragraph reply that addressed exactly none of the evidence or argument before asserting once again that the company had produced “a part intended only for use in the assembly or fabrication of a silencer.”

It’s hard to see how this can be anything but evasion—and a reminder that whether a law is good or bad, it can be made worse when its enforcers fail to focus objectively on the facts.