Although possession of suppressors is illegal in the state and most other items are hard to get, California ranks second among the number of total National Firearms Act weapons registered.
California has more than 5 million NFA-controlled items — destructive devices, machine guns, suppressors and short barreled rifles and shotguns — in circulation, according to the latest Firearms Commerce Report. Texas is the only state that has more Title II weapons registered, but ownership varies greatly. Most of NFA items, if not all, in California belong to police and movie prop houses.
According to the American Suppressor Association, California is one of just eight states that prohibit ownership and possession of suppressors by its residents, limiting their use to law enforcement agencies and to Class 3 dealers and manufacturers that still have to register.
As of April, the state had 15,044 silencers registered, a figure surpassed by mostly rural Mississippi, which has less than 10 percent of California’s population but counts 16,745 registered suppressors. The difference? Silencers are legal for civilian use, possession and hunting in the Magnolia State.
In California, non-law enforcement possession of short-barreled rifles and shotguns, destructive devices and machine guns are strictly regulated and require a rarely-granted state-issued permit on top of federal requirements. The licensing process includes a “good cause” requirement forcing applicants to justify their need for such regulated firearms, and are typically limited to bonified use in the entertainment industry.
This leaves California with more registered destructive devices than any other state– 272,128– compared to runner-up Texas with 250,568. According to federal regulators, this, as with suppressors, is due in large part to California’s law enforcement tactical teams.
“Flash bangs fall into the ‘Destructive Device’ category, which increases the number of NFA weapons – these devices are used in training and enforcement operations,” says a statement from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Los Angeles Field Division.
Machine guns? California has almost 30,000 on the books, with only six states having more.
“California is home to several motion picture prop houses with large inventories of NFA weapons,” says ATF. “These prop houses rent the NFA weapons out to major motion picture studios.”