Suppressor Myth #2 – Owning a Silencer Allows the Government to Search Your House

Silencer Central

As the story goes, buying a suppressor puts you on “the list”, allowing law enforcement or the ATF to search your house at any time. It has also been said that owning a suppressor means that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to you.

This is a scary myth and if it were true, would certainly be enough of a reason for most of us to skip out on suppressors. 

The good news: This Isn’t True!  As an attorney, I can tell you that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, while under attack, is still alive and does still protect you from illegal searches and seizures. 

ATF – While I agree that they should be abolished and that they have usurped powers not in the Constitution, they still aren’t allowed to come search your house, vehicle, or person without a search warrant.  The only way for them to get a search warrant is to show a judge that there is a reasonable basis to believe that they will find evidence of a crime at the place to be searched. The standard is called Probable Cause and will usually include a sworn affidavit or testimony by law enforcement detailing why they believe a crime has been committed. If the judge finds that the affidavit or testimony is sufficient to meet probable cause, then he’ll issue a search warrant. 

The idea behind search warrants and probable cause is that obeying the law won’t subject you to searches. In theory, the judge acts as an unbiased, neutral third party that is tasked with making sure that the Fourth Amendment is not violated.

The legal ownership of a suppressor doesn’t magically remove your Constitutional rights and legal ownership doesn’t equate to probable cause. Now, if you break the law, say by purchasing solvent traps or full auto sears, they will likely get a judge to give them a warrant based on probable cause, and then they can come to your house and do a search for those illegal items. 

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You sign nothing that would waive any of your Constitutional rights when you submit an ATF Form 4 or Form 1. Purchasing a suppressor the legal way by submitting the appropriate tax and jumping through the loopholes is what makes you a law-abiding citizen that isn’t subject to illegal searches. 

Where did this myth originate?

It’s anybody’s guess where this myth began, but it likely comes from the fact that FFL’s CAN be randomly inspected at their place of business during their business hours without a warrant by the ATF.  But that is part of the understanding when they apply to be an FFL and is not considered an illegal search.

In summary, legally purchasing a suppressor as an individual or through a trust doesn’t give law enforcement or the ATF the right to violate your Constitutional rights or search you or your home at will. When done correctly, it’s as safe as any legal firearm purchase.

About the author: True Pearce is the Managing Editor at GunsAmerica. He’s a competitive shooter, hunter, instructor & attorney. You can see and follow his adventures on Instagram. @true1911 https://www.instagram.com/true1911/

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Dusty July 22, 2022, 1:56 pm

    For D Dunn-
    Search warrants are public records. There is an affidavit portion. Lying on the affidavit is a felony. No officer wants to lose their job and go to prison. No judge wants paperwork documenting “low level scrutiny” with their name on it. Unless its the FISA court of course…

  • Dan Barnes July 19, 2022, 11:05 am

    So, is “search your home without a warrant” just a myth for suppressors, or for all legally owned NFA Items?

  • D Dunn July 18, 2022, 12:53 pm

    Reality is PC and warrants require a very low level of scrutiny, a mere unsupported, belief, attested to without any further inquiry or validation.

    The IMO reality is it’s not so much you have a silencer, it’s when the authorities decided you need to be searched or arrested for any reason, valid or invalid, and when the day comes the government wants to defy the 2nd. A., they know what you have that might interfere with their ability to do so. Add, they also will know what they will look for to confiscate, with or without a warrant.

  • Clint W. July 18, 2022, 11:37 am

    Many moons ago, during the Clinton regime, the National Guard was given a survey to determine if they were ordered by the prez to confiscate firearms and use any force necessary, would they do it. At that time, more than 90% said they would not. I am sure the times have changed if they asked that question now. But, one survey question I would love to give all FBI and ATF employees, would ask if they think every gun owner, every supporter of 2A, every member of the NRA, GOA, CCRKBA and similar groups, is a potential terrorist, a Charles Whitman looking for a tower, a wacko trying to convert every one of their AR’s to full auto. Do they think we are just normal folks into shooting sports or a group that needs to be wiped out? When the Brits confiscated everything, the true firearm hobbyists complained that the government was taking their past time, their hobby, their interests. The govt. simple response was, ‘Get another hobby”.

  • LJ July 18, 2022, 11:26 am

    Interesting, I had never heard of a ‘solvent trap’ until reading this article. When I clean my guns I just let the solvent run on the kitchen floor and let the wife clean it up. Problem solved …

  • Pat July 18, 2022, 11:15 am

    Most people in America don,t know in several countries not using a suppressor is concsidered you are an ass hole shooting with out one, they don,t want to hear the noise

  • JD July 18, 2022, 9:51 am

    “In theory, the judge acts as an unbiased, neutral third party that is tasked with making sure that the Fourth Amendment is not violated.”

    Uh-huh…in theory…

  • Dump July 18, 2022, 9:17 am

    It seems we’re at a point where Judges just rubber stamp any search warrant that’s brought before them. It’s not that hard to establish PC through some written silky words these days. Real or imagined. Just look at the news story on how easy it is.

    I don’t think owning an NFA item will affect it one way or another. If they want in, they’re coming in.

  • Elmer Fudd July 18, 2022, 9:17 am

    Most likely scenario is some Fudd from your range wants to know if your silencer is “legal”. If you don’t prove it to this nobody, he reports you to police.

    The police arrive and you again have to prove this silencer is “legal”. Not a lawyer, but my understanding I am under no obligation to provide any proof to these locals that I have purchased a TAX STAMP. If it’s a private range, the owner has the right to ask me to leave, but still has no right to see my TAX STAMP. The police have no right to see unless a crime was committed. When I went and got fingerprinted for my last suppressor, not one officer in the station understood the NFA. So, these same officers are going to decide if my silencer is legal?

    Where I live, this is not a problem, but in places less gun friendly I could see it easily happening.

  • Robert July 18, 2022, 9:02 am

    While this article may be technically correct, by buying a suppressor you are now on a government registration.. registration always leads to confiscation. And the ATF is not stupid, if you have a .223 suppressor chances are you have an AR15. The same theory goes with any caliber suppressor you have..obviously you have the matching firearm. So is it a way for the government to know what type of firearms you have… I think for now I’ll just keep my electronic earmuffs. Since they also amplify surrounding noise

  • 'Punkinball' Johnny July 18, 2022, 8:43 am

    Since when is the purchase of a ‘solvent trap” illegal??.

    • ted July 18, 2022, 5:22 pm

      Some people were purchasing “kits”. ATF has deemed them illegal. They are basically solvent traps, with internal parts that ARE NOT completed yet. AFTER you get the stamp, you may then drill out the holes on the “trap” , and drill out the holes on the “cups” . ATF has been flagging these applications and apparently asking for pictures and supporting documentation.

  • 'Punkinball' Johnny July 18, 2022, 8:10 am

    Since when has purchasing a solvent trap become illegal?

  • Puba July 18, 2022, 7:44 am

    Now, if you break the law, say by purchasing solvent traps or full auto sears, they …….
    So buying or possessing a solvent trap is a crime?
    That’s something I did not know.

  • SigArmored July 18, 2022, 5:34 am

    Three little words that throw all that wonderful leagle out the door. RED FLAG LAW.

  • commenter1 July 14, 2022, 2:38 am

    “The only way for them to get a search warrant is to show a judge that there is a reasonable basis to believe that they will find evidence of a crime at the place to be searched. The standard is called Probable Cause and will usually include a sworn affidavit or testimony by law enforcement detailing why they believe a crime has been committed. If the judge finds that the affidavit or testimony is sufficient to meet probable cause, then he’ll issue a search warrant. ”

    Your naivete is showing.

    A good majority of judges in this country would consider ownership of a “silencer” to BE a reasonable basis to believe that they will find evidence of a crime at the place to be searched.

    • Slim July 18, 2022, 10:12 am

      I agree with you both. The laws are as he says most likely. BUT as you said here the suppressor alone would no doubt be enough for a judge to sign on the dotted line! These MORON judges and most all the civilians as well truly think that the little barely if at all heard little “pew” is ALL that comes out of a suppressed gun of any kind even huge calibers! See if people called them as they ARE which is either a suppressor or muffler and NOT silencer which the name itself implies it “silences” then morons who just watch movies wouldn’t ever if heard silencer and would of then maybe asked themselves why it’s called a suppressor or muffler which both are ATFE terms you’ll know if you ever fill out a form 1. So the judge will think only people who needs a silent gun is a criminal and that’s why I agree that alone will be more than enough for a search warrant of anything owners by the owner of the suppressor. These facts are why I don’t own one, and because they’re very over priced for a tube with some baffles when the precision made gun it’s attached to takes so many more machines and skilled operators than it does to turn out a tube and yet the tube is almost always more than say for example a GLOCK that’s around $600 and most all suppressors that you’d actually want if you were ti buy one starts basically at a grand and most of the time that’s with zero attachments like QD attachments or the muzzle break that’s needed to use such a device. Thanks for the info on what SHOULD be the legalities of things as they are but mainly if they obeyed their own laws they create. Please do more informative stuff on legalities of things that are common myths or truths so many people can avoid a cell and learn what to do. Love the gun articles of course too! Thanks!

      • Jay Smith July 19, 2022, 6:43 am

        Just info , suppressors are MUCH cheaper ( price-wise ) than you think you know. And the quality is very high high , even on the most inexpensive ones.

    • Elapid King July 18, 2022, 10:56 am

      That wouldn’t matter in the least. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of judges will rubber stamp search warrants for any and all LE agencies regardless of reason or the existence of probable cause or not.

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