The gun has been a part of American culture almost since the very beginning. Since the days of the pioneers and the Wild West, Americans have treasured this particular brand of weapon. Much like any other machine though, there are always accessories and improvements, many of their origins shrouded in confusion. One of these, an image which has been seared into popular culture, is the silencer.
Hiram P. Maxim is generally agreed to have invented the first commercial silencer. Made of metal, the Maxim silencer fitted onto the end of a pistol and reduced, though did not eliminate, the sound of gunfire.
The gun silencer was first marketed as a gentleman’s method of target shooting. The silencer reduced the need for ear protection, and enabled people to talk while out shooting.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, silencers were often bought and used by criminals. It’s generally agreed that silencers were generally used by poachers trying to bring home meat more than they were used by gangsters or other violent criminals however.
Since it was against the constitution to ban silencers, Congress levied a bill in 1934 that put a heavy tax on owning one. This bill stands today, and owning an unregistered silencer is considered to be federal tax evasion under the law.
The private ownership of silencers is banned in 17 states, and they are generally considered to be a weapon, although they are only a weapon accessory. It’s for these reasons and other suppression attempts, along with the silencer’s reputation enforced by spy novels and movies, that the general public often thinks they are illegal to own rather than regulated.