Are Silencers Illegal in the State of Texas?

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The question of whether or not silencers are illegal in Texas is a tricky one that deserves some careful attention. The topic of silencers can generate heated conversations, and better understanding the laws that apply in Texas is a great way to remain on the right side of them.

If you are facing a gun charge of any kind, defending your rights is key. Don’t wait to consult with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.


Although we frequently use the term “silencer,” nothing can completely silence the sound a gun makes when it is fired. Another common name for the devices that most people know as silencers is “suppressor,” but the federal government uses the term “muffler.”

A silencer generally takes the form of a cylinder that attaches to the end of a gun’s barrel – typically with a screwing mechanism – and the intent is to lower the decibel level upon firing. The sound made by a gun with a silencer on it is far less noticeable than a sound made by a gun without one, which is often described as deafening.

Silencers help reduce the risk of hearing damage associated with shooting. Silencers can reduce the sound made upon firing by 30 to 40 decibels. The sound made by a gun firing averages between 140 and 165 decibels, so the term silencer is relative. The feds are correct in calling them mufflers, but the term is unlikely to catch on.

Silencers provide hearing protection at about the same level as a quality pair of earplugs would. They also help to reduce noise pollution and recoil.

Texas Takes a Stand

Texas House Bill 957, which passed in 2021, exempts firearm suppressors that are made in the State of Texas and that remain in the State of Texas from federal regulations.

However, federal law implements a considerable tax on those who own firearm suppressors for personal use. In addition, if you fail to comply with all federal guidelines for possessing, manufacturing, repairing, transporting, or selling a silencer, you could be guilty of a federal criminal offense.

The State of Texas takes the position that this federal law violates its citizens’ Second Amendment rights by taxing and regulating suppressors that are made and used in Texas. It points out that no other constitutional rights are taxed at the federal level.

The Texas AG puts it this way:

“Our Second Amendment right must be protected, and I will continue to protect Texans from federal overreach interfering with our inalienable right. I will not allow them to tarnish the freedom and values Americans hold dear.”

Silencers are only legal at the federal level when highly specific regulations are met, but they are legal at the state level for all who are eligible to possess firearms in the State of Texas. These regulations work similarly to the way that marijuana is treated. The drug is illegal at the federal level, but many states have legalized it for medical or recreational reasons.

As an aside, we should make it perfectly clear that marijuana has not been legalized for recreational purposes in Texas.

Finally, Texas took things further by passing laws maintaining that silencers that are made in Texas and that remain in the state are not subject to federal law, which means the State of Texas can’t prosecute you for not complying with federal regulations regarding silencers. However, the federal government does not see it this way, and they can prosecute you.

If you are facing criminal gun charges on either the state or federal level, you need the guidance of a skilled attorney. Contact a Killeen criminal defense attorney today to receive trusted legal guidance throughout your case.

The Federal Government’s Position

The 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) allows citizens to purchase and use silencers. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) oversees the guidelines involved in the purchase and use of silencers, and they include important restrictions. Those who wish to purchase and use silencers must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a legal resident of the United States.

  • You must live in one of the 42 states (including Texas) that has legalized ownership of civilian suppressors.

  • You must be legally eligible to purchase a firearm in the first place.

  • In order to purchase a gun from a dealer, you must be at least 21 years old, and in order to purchase a silencer from an individual, you must be at least 18 years old and must use a Form 4.

  • You must have passed an ATF background check.

Class 3 License

While suppressors are technically considered Class 3, you don’t need a Class 3 license to own one – contrary to popular belief. No special permit, certification, or license is required to purchase and own a silencer. Class 3 licenses are reserved for dealers who sell select NFA firearms that include silencers to eliminate the need for a per-item tax.

Requirements to Purchase a Silencer

To purchase a silencer under federal law, you’ll also need to purchase an approved tax stamp, which is a federal tax imposed on citizens with submission of the required Form 4 transfer application to the ATF.

The Tax Stamp

The tax stamp costs $200, but there are no ongoing fees. The concept behind the tax stamp is intended to be something like a sales tax that you would pay on a purchase – except it goes to the federal government rather than the state.

The Provision of Personal Information

To purchase a silencer, you’ll also be required to provide a significant amount of personal information that includes your fingerprints, demographic details, and a photo similar to those used for passports. In other words, the matter goes well beyond a sales tax, which we all pay anonymously on nearly a daily basis.

Obtaining the required tax stamp is generally a months-long process that most sources estimate takes about six to seven months.

You must also comply with several restrictions. If you file for the tax stamp individually – rather than as a corporation or trust – only you are allowed to handle the silencer. Finally, one tax stamp doesn’t cover every silencer you choose to purchase. It’s one tax stamp per silencer.

Back to House Bill 957

While Texas did pass HB 957 in 2021, known as the Texas Suppressor Freedom Act, the federal government made it quite clear that violators who don’t follow federal guidelines surrounding suppressors are subject to serious fines and potential jail time.

The State of Texas appealed the federal government’s stance, but the case was shot down on a technicality. However, another appeal is pending. Regardless of the outcome, potential buyers should proceed with caution when purchasing and owning a silencer in Texas without going through the appropriate federal channels.

Carry Laws in Texas

Texas boasts some of the least stringent carry laws in the nation, and the answers to the following frequently asked questions on the topic help flesh out this claim. If you have questions specific to your case, reach out for the skilled guidance of a Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Who Can Carry a Handgun in Texas?

As of 2021, anyone who qualifies to carry a handgun in a public place can do so without a license to carry (LTC). However, LTCs are still available and can provide additional benefits to licensees. To qualify to carry a handgun in Texas, you must check all the following boxes:

  • You are at least 21 years old.

  • You do not have any prior felony convictions.

  • You do not have a recent conviction for certain kinds of misdemeanors.

  • You are not restricted under federal law from possessing a firearm.

  • You are not subject to a current protective order.

Those who aren’t eligible to possess a gun in the State of Texas do not gain eligibility through the 2021 law – commonly referred to as constitutional carry.

Who Can Carry a Long Gun in Texas?

Long guns refer to rifles and shotguns, and Texas doesn’t have any specific restrictions on the books related to these firearms. However, some individuals, such as those with felony convictions, are legally prohibited from owning or possessing any firearms, including long guns.

Do I Need a License to Carry a Handgun in Texas?

If you meet the requirements to carry a handgun outlined above, you don’t need a license. You can carry a handgun in the State of Texas under their constitutional carry law. If you open carry or if your gun is partially visible, it must be holstered, but the requirement that the holster be either a shoulder or belt variety no longer applies.

You should know, however, that it is against the law in the State of Texas to purposely display a handgun that isn’t holstered in the plain view of another person in public.

Can I Carry a Handgun in My Car?

You can carry a handgun in your car or in a car that is under your control if it is legal for you to carry a handgun at the state and federal level in the first place. Constitutional carry allows you to carry a gun that is in plain view in your vehicle, but it must be holstered.

Where Can I Carry My Handgun in Texas?

Generally, you can carry your handgun anywhere in the State of Texas where it is not prohibited by law to do so. There are some locations where guns carried by civilians are always against the law:

  • On school grounds, on grounds owned by and under the control of a school where a school activity is taking place, or in a vehicle used for passenger transportation by a school – whether the school is elementary, secondary, or postsecondary and whether the school is public or private

  • On the grounds of a polling place on the day of an election or when early voting is in progress

  • On the grounds of any court or in any offices that are used by any court

  • On the grounds of a racetrack

  • In the secured area of an airport or in the entry to the secured area of an airport

  • On the premises of a business that derives at least 51 percent of its income from alcohol sales or the service of alcoholic beverages

  • On the premises of a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event

  • On the premises of a correctional facility or civil commitment facility

  • On the premises of a hospital, mental hospital, or nursing facility

  • In an amusement park

  • In the room or rooms where an open government meeting is being held

What Are the Carry Rules on College Campuses?

Texas specifically addresses the legality of carrying concealed handguns on college campuses, and it is legal in all areas except in those for which the campus has prohibited concealed carry – as long as the school has proper notices regarding the prohibition in place.

Colleges can also prohibit open carry on their campuses – even when holstered – but proper notice must be posted.

What about Carrying a Gun on Private Property – Is It Legal?

The owners of private property generally have the right to choose whether or not they allow guns on the premises. If they choose to ban guns, they typically need to let people know by either posting signs or by telling them directly.

Once you’ve been notified that carrying a gun is prohibited on the property, you’re obligated by law to abide by the property owner’s decision.

Make the Call to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a practiced criminal defense attorney who is committed to fiercely advocating for your possession and carry rights.
If you are facing a gun charge, our accomplished legal team has the experience and focus to help. We encourage you to reach out and contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 to schedule your FREE consultation and learn more about what we can do for you today.

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