Silencerco, ASA, and the Silencers Are Legal Shoot!
In just two days, on April 28th, Silencerco and the American Silencer Association are putting on the First Annual Silencers Are Legal Shoot. The event, held in Dallas, TX, invites the public to a vendor and range day where they can shoot and test silencers and suppressors. The goal of the event is to educate and inform shooters of all types, and to spread the word that silencers are legal. It promises to be one of the biggest shooting events this year. Vendors are lined up to display and sell brand new product, ammo is available on site, and firearms and silencers will be provided to allow people the opportunity to experience silencer use first hand.
Silencerco is one of the leading silencer or suppressor manufacturers in the US, and is one of the leading forces for legislation and lobbying regarding silencers and silencer use. I was able to interview Josh Waldron, the CEO of Silencerco, regarding the shoot, the company, and silencers in general in the US.
Read on to see the full interview, and for more information regarding suppressor ownership and use in the US.
Q- You formed Silencerco in 2008. Since then, what changes have you seen in the civilian silencer industry?
A- I think the two biggest changes I have seen in the industry have been the growth of the market and the technology advancements.
Over the last 4 years I have seen an unbelievable increase in the size of the industry. According to a FOIA we submitted to the NFA Branch of the BATFE, in 2008 there were just over 20,000 form 4 transfers for silencers. In 2011 they recorded over 50,000. Also, after asking the NFA branch how many forms 4 transfers for silencers they project for 2012 they said over 70,000! If you average the silencer industry growth for the last 5 years its approximately 26% per year.
Silencers are becoming far more mainstream. Traditionally the silencer market has been a manufacturer direct industry, in which dealers buy directly from the manufacturers. Last year we moved our business model to a wholesale model similar to what is traditionally the way the gun industry works. This was a way to springboard the silencer industry into the mainstream. Now, regular title one dealers are being educated about the silencer industry and they are starting to become Class 3 dealers.
Silencerco/SWR introduced the “Yes, Silencers are Legal” education campaign. We have printed booklets that are being sent nationwide to dealers educating them on the benefits of using a silencer, as well as the market and buying procedures. We have introduced the www.silencersarelegal.com website and other marketing efforts to help educate the country.
Silencerco/SWR, along with AAC/Remington has formed an industry organization called the American Silencer Association (www.americansilencerassociation.com which continues to help citizens learn about the legalities of ownership as well as uses and benefits of shooting with silencers.
Silencerco/SWR has retained a lobbyist to ensure more states are legalizing silencer ownership, or help pass laws that legalize hunting with silencers.
All in all, the biggest changes I have seen is the amount of people that have been introduced to our small silencer community. Silencers will continue to get more mainstream and the hope is to be able to change the negative stigma that Hollywood has created for them. In every area of our industry we have seen massive growth, from military and law enforcement, to civilians and hunters, silencers are becoming a must have in the firearms industry.
Silencerco/SWR has been in the forefront of the technological advancements our industry as seen. The bar has been raised to a point where smaller suppressor companies are not able to keep up with technology. The consumer benefits by the head to head competition of the major players. All of the major players are increasing our research and development budgets and the advancements have been amazing.
Q- This year you are running the first annual Silencers Are Legal Shoot. What prompted the idea to have a shoot like this?
A- As part of our “Yes, Silencers are Legal” campaign we want to hold events that allow people to have a hands on experience. We carefully decided on a city to hold the event in to get the most people out. Texas is the biggest gun state in the country as well as holds the position of the state where the most silencers are sold every year. We wanted to hold the event there to get the best results. Our idea is to use this event to get the word out that silencers are in fact legal. By having a way for people to try product, this will allow them to experience the benefits as well.
Q- In the UK, silencers are not only easily available, but are often either recommended or required for hunting. What do you see as the primary difference between the UK and US mindset in this area?
A- The way Americans think about guns is deeply rooted in the 2nd Amendment. The way the amendment was drafted is not about hunting at all. Its about being able to arm yourself, protect yourself, and most importantly protect yourself against a tyrannical government. The biggest threat to America, according to our own constitution, is our government. These things were put in place to protect us all from being oppressed. Americans do not trust their government to protect their best interest. Its been that way since the founding fathers created that culture. Believe me, I love that culture. So in short, Americans think of guns first as ways to protect ourselves, and shoot bad guys. People that oppose guns in America think of guns as murder weapons and tools for thugs. Suppressors, reenforced by Hollywood and Media, have an additional level of negative views from those that oppose guns in America. It stacks on top of the negative stigma of a firearm as a tool to make an already evil tool, more evil. That obviously could not be farther from the truth but that is the “mindset” you are speaking of none the less.
In the UK, they have a culture where they think their government is going to keep them safe. Unless you are a very wealthy person that does not mind going through the rigors of obtaining a gun the citizens don’t have guns, and they don’t think they need guns. They do not think of guns as a way to protect themselves they think of them as hunting tools. They also know that most of the time, only the rich have guns and they only use them for hunting. Because of this very simple mindset, silencers are thought of as tools to help keep noise pollution down to allow tranquility in the country side. It’s a totally different psychology.
Q- What roadblocks have you seen that hinder civilian ownership of silencers in the US? Both legislative and Public Opinion.
A- Hollywood continues to show silencers as tools for assassins or criminals. This type of negativity is the hardest to overcome. Because Hollywood has more money than Silencerco, their media portrayal makes it to more Americans than our campaign does. Unfortunately, legislators watch movies and TV too so they have preconceived notions about our industry. Despite popular opinion and opinions of law makers, we have seen many good things happen in our industry regarding silencer laws. In 2011 Michigan and Missouri legalized private ownership of suppressor and Washington state legalized the ability to shoot with suppressors. This year we have seen a few states legalize hunting with suppressors. All in all our movement is gaining momentum and laws for our industry are getting more relaxed. That is a great thing!
In regards to legalizing hunting with suppressors, the Department of Natural Resources is kicking back on bills which are trying to allow it. They fear that people will be able to poach if they have suppressed rifles. This is largely overcome by educating them but many still oppose it. Silencerco/SWR has contracted Todd Rathner, a lobbyist that has worked for years with the NRA, to educate bureaucrats and ensure bill passage. We are gaining momentum on these grounds as well.
Lastly, a major problem our industry faces is getting enough NFA examiners to service the exponential growth we have experienced. There is a federal hiring freeze that is prohibiting the branch’s ability to keep up with the forms. In 2007 the NFA branch had 12 examiners that processed about 18,000 form 4s. Currently there are only 9 examiners and they are projecting 70,000 form 4s. The wait times are getting out of control and its thwarting market growth. Silencerco/SWR and the ASA are working hard to improve that situation but it is an uphill battle.
Q- I know you’ve been involved with some recent pro-silencer legislation (such as in Oklahoma and Georgia). What do you see as the biggest factor in these beginning movements?
A- Part of the struggle to bring the silencer industry into mainstream is educating regular gun guys, the part of the market that shops at Cabala’s or Bass Pro Shop, about the benefits of hunting with silencers. If they cant legally use them in their home state, they are going to think we are crazy. So part of the education is getting bills written to legal hunting with silencers. These bills bring attention to our market. Getting the NRA to back us has been an amazing help. http://www.sportsmenvote.com/nra-pushes-silencers/. This support has also brought a lot of attention to our industry. All of these steps we are taking are helping push silencers mainstream and strip the negative stigma that has been associated with silencers for years. The more voices we get, the more bills we can pass!
Q- What can shooting enthusiasts and hunters to do both to preserve their rights, and to keep legislation and legalism of firearm suppressors moving in a sensible direction?
A- Every shooter should be involved with the NRA and the NSSF. Every silencer owner should be involved with the American Silencer Association (ASA). There is a lot of legislation going on all the time. This year we had 5 states with silencer bills. We need the support, we need the activity from citizens to insure our rights are being protected. Especially with the current administration, we need the voices. Don’t just sit by and expect your rights to be protected. We need to be politically active, all of us.
Q- What else is on the radar for you, Silencerco, and the suppressed shooting industry in the future?
A- Silencerco/SWR is always looking for new lines of revenue. The future is unknown at this time but you can expect whatever we do we will have the same level of innovation and customer service. As far as Silencerco or SWR branded product, you can expect a full product line to be introduced over the next couple years. 2012 we plan to release the Silencerco Saker 7.62, the SWR Octane 45HD, and the SWR Specwar 7.62.
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