Republicans on Capitol Hill are pressing federal gun regulators over an apparent sudden and arbitrary change to the practice of self-manufacturing suppressors.
U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Steve Daines (R-MT) and 24 of their colleagues in the Senate last Wednesday fired off a letter to ATF officials demanding answers on the recent crackdown. Two days later, Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and 141 Congressional colleagues added their signatures to a longer, 13-page, letter to ATF with the same general vibe.

In short, they want to know what's the deal with solvent traps, and why the ATF is now lowering the boom on gun owners simply seeking in good faith to obey the law.
Historically, the ATF has required Americans trying to comply with NFA regulations to file a Form 1, pay the mandatory $200 tax – and, once all the red tape was processed over several months – they would be allowed to make the suppressor for their personal use. That is, until this month anyway.
The American Suppressor Association and other groups have reported this month that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives summarily denied no less than 847 pending Form 1 applications to make a suppressor because the agency believed the applicants were using commonly available – and legal – solvent trap kits for their planned builds. The ATF then followed up that mysterious right cross with an out-of-the-blue left hook by saying all those with pending Form 1 suppressor applications – nearly 3,000 people – will have to retroactively provide pictures and descriptions of all components that will be used to make the suppressor, or their application will be disapproved.
Attorneys versed in firearms law have already warned before this step that the ATF was increasingly taking action on those buying solvent traps, especially from overseas sources.
Now Congress wants to know why the sudden, secretive rush to action by regulators.
"The ATF continues to infringe on the constitutional liberties of law-abiding Americans. This has gone long enough,” said Biggs in a statement. "ATF is ignoring years of precedent to restrict individuals’ ability to make their own silencers. I’ve heard from my constituents how this arbitrary change is negatively impacting them. This is unacceptable. The ATF is overstepping its authority and it must explain its actions to Congress and the American people."
Both letters ask the ATF, by the end of the month, to answer the following questions:

  1. Please explain why the ATF is denying Form 1 applications for silencers.
  2. Please explain whether these denials reflect a change in policy in how the ATF regulates self-made silencers.
  3. Please explain what the ATF has done to inform the American people of its position regarding a Form 1 application and devices it believes are silencer “kits,” so that law-abiding Americans can attempt to comply with the law.
  4. Please explain how the ATF evaluates whether a Form 1 application for a silencer is going to be used for a kit that, in ATF’s view, is already legally a silencer.
  5. Please explain why the ATF has repeatedly approved Form 1 applications for silencers made from “kits” if the agency’s policy is that one or more items in the “kits” are considered silencers.
  6. Please explain how the ATF intends to handle approved Form 1 applications that occurred before February 28, 2022, for silencers made from “kits.”
  7. Please explain how the ATF plans to make tax-free registration available for applicants who in good faith attempted to comply with federal law. If ATF does not plan to make tax-free registration available for applicants who in good faith attempted to comply with the federal law, please explain why.
  8. Please produce all documents and communications, including but not limited to ATF legal opinions, referring or relating to the ATF’s definition of a silencer, or what constitutes a silencer “kit.”

The two letters were preceded by one penned on March 11 to ATF by 20 Republican senators questioning the agency's "secret guidance" used to justify the seizure of property – and could more troublingly be used to prosecute Americans and businesses making lawful items. 

"Our government, including the ATF, has a duty to inform Americans what they must do to comply with federal law, especially when the conduct involves the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right and violations could result in a penalty of up to ten years in prison. The use of ‘secret’ law is anathema to our system of government,” the lawmakers wrote.

While once an exotic and rarely seen firearm accessory, the numbers of registered suppressors in circulation have skyrocketed in recent years as the public realizes their obvious and innocuous use in hearing protection. According to federal regulators, just 285,087 were on the books in 2011. Compare that to 2,664,774 suppressors registered as of May 2021.

Banner image: B&T-made firearms and suppressors gearing up for some quiet time at SHOT Show 2022. (Photo: Chris Eger/