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.