So, You Want a Silencer - Simon Munslow Breaks Down the Process Part 1
SO, YOU WANT A SILENCER IN NSW?
1. This paper has been prepared with three things in mind:
(a) To help decide whether a silencer is something that would benefit you.
(b) To help you form an initial view about whether you can meet the legal test for acquiring one.
(c) If a permit is obtained, to help you make appropriate decisions in purchasing one.
It is a bit legalistic in places and I apologise for this, but it has to be. If those bits ‘turn you off’, skim past them.
2. If you want to make an application, follow the instructions contained within this kit, which is clearer than the material provided by NSW Police on-line, and then call me for legal assistance in respect to completing the Genuine Reason form, which is the most contentious part of the process.
3. My fee charged for this is my initial consultation fee of $250.
4. DEFINITION- SEMANTICS
5. As a shooter, you may take exception to ‘sound moderators’ being called ‘silencers’, because, you feel this is not scientifically correct and that I am perpetuating a myth that silencers render a firearm silent.
6. I agree with you. I prefer ‘moderator’ to ‘silencer’, However, ‘moderators’ are referred to as ‘silencers’ in the legislation, and so, while ‘silencer’ is less technically correct, silencer it is its correct legal name, and it is for this reason that it is referenced as such in this paper.
7. You can call them what you like, ‘silencer’, ‘suppressor’, ‘moderator’ or ‘can’, they are all one and the same thing.
9. I am a lawyer, and this paper has been designed to provide you with information that shall assist you. I am opposed to the Australian laws regarding silencers, however I am also against making frivolous applications with view to flooding the system in order to try to change the law.
10. I used to be a senior regulatory lawyer with the Commonwealth Government, and I can assure you that approach does not work. All flooding the system will do is cause a log jam that shall cause processing delays to increase and lead to longer delays for those with a legitimate reason to have a silencer.
11. There is already evidence of this happening, as processing delays have increased from six to eight weeks to in excess of six months.
12. To me there is little merit to a modern version of Luddite Dutch practice of dropping a clog into a machine’s mechanism to destroy it or ‘clog it up’.
13. There has been a recent subtle change in approach by the Registry, in respect to farmers following the ‘Allen’ decision. I speculate that the reason for this is that there was an observation by the Tribunal on a legal question in that decision, that suggests that, had the Tribunal been mindful, it could possibly have decided the matter on the basis of a broader definition of ‘necessary’ (para 84).
14. The Police lawyers were right to point out in that case, that references to the word ‘necessary’ in other matters, occurred in a different context, but, the issue of whether the interpretation adopted to these words by other Courts is relevant to Prohibited Weapons laws.
15. The Tribunal chose distinguish, or work around the Osborne decision, and thereby avoided the question.
16. I assume that the reason for this approach was if they redefined ‘necessary’ in a broad way, it could have subverted the entire Prohibited Weapon’s regime in NSW. As NSW Tribunals are required to make a decision that is the ‘correct and preferable’ and such finding may well be ‘correct’ but would hardly have been ‘preferable’.
17. Police Legal would have analysed this decision and I speculate would have advised management to loosen access to farmers who can demonstrate a genuine need of one to control pests as a result of loss. I can think of no other reason for this.
18. My concern with what I call the ‘Luddite’ approach, is that it may be tactical, but is not strategic- our approach adopted needs to recognise the responsibility of the Tribunal to make the ‘correct and preferable’ decision and the conservative nature of Government, the Police and Courts and Tribunals.
19. If we try to force the Tribunal’s hand, by running everything and anything, we shall find that the Tribunal shall not feel encouraged to broaden the interpretation of ‘necessary’ because they may not feel an urge to assist the person before them. The decision reached may make it more difficult to advance our cause in future.
20. The reason for this is ‘Comity’, Tribunals try to make decisions where they can that sit comfortably with other Tribunal decisions.
21. If you want to apply for a silencer, you need to know that in the Tribunal process, they may investigate other areas of your fitness, such as an examination of your social media and Doctor’s medical records as a means of terminating the process.
22. You also need to know that, if you are rejected, in any subsequent application for a licence or permit you shall be asked
whether you have been rejected previously for a permit or application. You have to answer this affirmatively (otherwise you are automatically not a ‘fit and proper person’), and this may trigger bureaucratic ‘punishment’ at that stage. You have been warned.
23. Please note, I am not in the business of turning away work, but professionally, my obligation to you requires that I inform you of what you may find yourself in for in advance. I have spent much of my professional life fighting for, and against governments, they are the richest litigators in the land. They can be beaten, but any guerrilla warrior would tell you, you need to pick your fights and wear them down.
24. I believe doing that if we do this we shall get the outcome we want, particularly if the bureaucracy can see the roll out of silencers within the farming community with no apparent criminal use.
25. The fundamental approach to Prohibited Weapons is dictated by the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 and Regulations. It is not open to a public servant to adopt an ‘soft’ or ‘beneficial’ approach to the granting of silencer permits given the objectives of the Act, which are set out in s3 which are (and here I apologise for a few paragraphs of legalese):
(a) to confirm that the possession and use of prohibited weapons is a privilege that is conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety, and
(b) to improve public safety by imposing strict controls on the possession and use of prohibited weapons.
(2) The specific objects of this Act are as follows:
(a) to require each person who possesses or uses a prohibited weapon under the authority of a permit to have a genuine reason for possessing or using the weapon,
(b) to provide strict requirements that must be satisfied in relation to the possession and use of prohibited weapons
26. If you want to change the law, use legitimate avenues, litigation under some circumstances is a legitimate avenue, but I believe flood tactics is not.
• Get active in parties like the Shooters Fishers & Farmers Party or Liberal Democrats
• Join any other party and agitate!
• Vote against your sitting member unless he or she demonstrates by action that they as a pro-shooting member
• If you are in a major party, get yourself on the pre-selection panel of a local member and speak against them
• Write to your Local MP and to the Police Commissioner and request a response
• If you are a member of the SSAA- stir them into action
28. Remember, there are enough shooters in Australia to dictate a sensible firearms law agenda in Australia. All we need do is apply pressure and work together.
29. IS A SILENCER FOR YOU?
30. Silencers are a contentious subject in Australia, with the Government refusing to reclassify them so that they are not prohibited weapons.
31. Silencers have taken the shooting world by storm, and they are globally popular accessories for target shooters and hunters alike.
32. A ‘good’ silencer is going to reduce noise by 30 db. and when firing supersonic ammunition, it many reduce noise to a point where hearing protection is no longer needed.
33. Truly silent firearms do exist but these are military weapons, for example the silenced Sten, Stirling or MP 5 sub machine guns, De lisle Carbine, Welrod Pistol or a silent .22 High Standard target pistol engineered for the OSS (predecessor of the CIA) during WW2.
34. There are, no doubt Chinese and Russian models that are not known to the writer that would add to this list.
35. When a firearm is discharged, the noise heard has a number of elements- click-clack sound of an action cycling if the firearm is a semi-automatic, the explosive sound of the primer and gun powder combusting, followed by the supersonic boom of the bullet, and the audible ‘smack’ of the bullet striking a target.
36. A silencer can deal with only one of those noises- the sound of the primer and powder combustion.
37. Noise can be further reduced through use of subsonic ammunition, but this is at the expense of power, reducing effectiveness to something like 1/8th of the power of standard high velocity round.
38. This power level is so low that it can cause animal welfare concerns, and when considering silencer use, this also needs to be considered.
39. Europeans use silencers with high velocity ammunition. The sonic boom can be heard, though this sound appears to an animal not to be coming from the muzzle.
40. Target animals are momentarily confused, perhaps hearing the ‘slap’ of a bullet striking, followed by a sonic boom. This causing enough confusion for another animal to be targeted before the herd or mob flee.
41. I consider silencers to be a useful tool under certain conditions.
42. Silencers can help prevent the development of sensory neural hearing loss.
43. Silencers are not a universal solution, and, like today’s long-range rifles with bullet drop compensating telescopic sights, they will not turn an indifferent marksman or hunter into a good one.
44. I have acted for people who have acquired a silencer, and scarcely used it. One person tried it once or twice, and, because it has not suited the way they hunted, or their firearms, or they have not liked the ‘feel’ of the rifle with a moderator attached, they have dispensed with it.
45. This is of the major reasons why I am not totally a fan of silencers. Unless the firearm has been designed for use with one and fitted with an integral barrel / silencer or a shortened barrel and threaded barrel, the firearm is likely to be long, unwieldy, and have poor balance.
46. The effect on ‘feel’ and balance is considerable. It effects barrel harmonics, and balance, and has the poor balance of a rifle fitted with a bayonet.
47. If you get a firearm fitted with a permanent silencer, it becomes a prohibited weapon, and the entire item is permanently subject to harsh controls to be discussed later.
48. Not all silencers are alike, some are longer than others, and heavier, some alter balance and harmonics more than others because of the technology and materials used. There is also a considerable difference between the ease with which they can be dismantled for cleaning and their efficiency.
49. Frankly, some silencers on the market place- both here and overseas have been produced by businesses looking to make a quick buck. These companies have done little product development, and I suspect many do not even understand the physics of the design, which is to convert sound energy into heat energy.
50. An ACT based sound silencer designer, who has spent several years on R&D describes charitably as ‘1900s technology’ – a reference to the early Maxim silencer.
51. So, do your homework and consider such things as level of noise reduction, design, weight, length, how easy it is to fit to your rifle, and clean. Also consider the name and reputation of the manufacturer and supplier.
52. Remember, research and development and good high-tech materials and good design, have a cost, and be prepared to pay for this.
Part 2 coming Next week
National Firearms Lawyer
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Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.
He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.
This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice.
He can assist you with:
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