Suppressor Ban Lawsuit Filed in Illinois

On Monday, February 27, 2023, two individuals filed suit in an Illinois court to challenge the legality of the suppressor ban within that state, with Illinois as one of eight states that outright bans ownership of suppressors. Outside those eight states, Connecticut is the only state that allows ownership but not hunting with a suppressor, all 41 other states allow for legal ownership.

So, what’s the big deal about two guys suing the state of Illinois to own suppressors, outside the obvious? And what kind of argument do they have? Well, really there are several arguments in their filing that discuss the reasoning behind the lawsuit.

Maxim DRF suppressor pistol
Two Plaintiffs in Illinois filed a lawsuit against state officials challenging the state’s ban on suppressors ownership. Suppressors are currently banned within the state and can result in either Class 2 or Class 3 felony charges. (Photo credit: Maxim)

These residents of Illinois have decided to stand up and push back against what they feel is an unfair law, one which they argue goes against their Second Amendment right to bear arms. These two, one who has lived in Illinois his whole life and one who moved there, are not permitted under state law to own or even possess a suppressor, and depending on where they are, it’s either a Class 2 or Class 3 felony to do so. The second Plaintiff of the case had to legally transfer ownership of his suppressor to family members that reside outside Illinois. They decided to push back.

Historical Basis

In the Complaint filed, the Plaintiffs state that Illinois has criminalized suppressors despite their common use. Suppressors have been used commonly since Hiram Maxim applied for his patent in 1908 for a device that would reduce gunshot noise. He called it a “silencer,” but people who are familiar with them know the misnomer and agree that suppressor is a more appropriate term.

Suppressors have been used across history with firearms. Even President Theodore Roosevelt had a suppressor on his 1894 Winchester. For nearly 25 years after the initial patent for suppressors, the product went unregulated. It wasn’t until the 1934 National Firearms Act that suppressors started to be regulated, but not banned.

Example for ATF Form 4 tax stamp with suppressor
In one of the bases for the Complaint, the Plaintiffs point to the history of the suppressor. For nearly 25 years after the first patent was filed for a suppressor, they went unregulated. It wasn’t until the National Firearms Act of 1934 that suppressor ownership became restricted.

Common Use Arguments

The Plaintiffs lay out reasons that suppressor usage is generally accepted and that suppressors are very infrequently used for criminal activity. In 2017, acting AFT Deputy Director Turk admitted to that fact, stating suppressors “are very rarely used in criminal shootings.” One study showed that suppressor-related prosecutions for a given year were only 30-40 cases out of nearly 80,000 federal cases.

The Plaintiffs continue to state that ownership is beneficial and increases the safety of firearm use with five common and practical uses of suppressors. The first reason they give is for hearing protection. When suppressors are not used, the decibel levels from gunfire are above hearing safe, which we all know, and prolonged exposure leads to hearing loss. However, if a suppressor is used, the decibel levels are reduced to safer levels.

Secondly, suppressors are used to protect hunters and those around them. Reports have shown that up to 95% of adult hunters say they don’t wear hearing protection while hunting. Using a suppressor would protect their hearing while maintaining situational awareness.

United States map for suppressor ownership
The Complaint points to common uses of suppressors from around the country and world as a basis for the overturning of the law. Within the US, 42 states allow for ownership and 41 states allow for hunting with a suppressor. (Photo credit: American Suppressor Association)

Third, suppressors are used as a common courtesy to reduce noise in communities. Suppressors don’t silence gunshots by any stretch of the imagination, but they keep the sound down to acceptable levels to reduce the levels of noise pollution in neighborhoods. Maxim stated that was one of the reasons for his invention. In other countries around the world where suppressor ownership is legal, it’s almost seen as rude to shoot without a suppressor. I have to agree.

Fourth, suppressor ownership and usage provide for safer training and make the firearm more accurate. The suppressor mitigates at least some of the recoil from the firearm, helps with muzzle flash, and gives the shooter better control over the weapon. There are many instructors that employ suppressors in their courses to help new shooters get comfortable and reduce the propensity of the shooter to develop a flinch in response to the recoil. Additionally, suppressors help with situational awareness and allow the students to hear commands and warnings easier making the overall situation safer.

Fifth, suppressors make self-defense or defense of the home safer and more effective. When used for home defense circumstances, earmuffs or plugs might not be readily available, meaning that the user is protecting their hearing. Additionally, the suppressor allows for effective communication with others in the dwelling and the ability to hear potential threats.

Legal Terms and Rulings

Illinois law states it is illegal to have “any device or attachment of any kind designed, used or intended for use in silencing the report of any firearm.” Anyone who has used a suppressor knows that it doesn’t silence the firearm, even on a .22lr. It diminishes the report for the firearm, but regardless of what Hollywood likes to show, it does not silence anything.

We are all familiar with the Second Amendment and the text. The ATF classifies suppressors as firearms in accordance with the NFA registration. If you apply that term for suppressors, based on the Heller, McDonald, and Bruen decisions, it’s a straightforward case when taking the Second Amendment into account. There has been ambiguity regarding how the text is interpreted and how it really applies to suppressors, but using the ATF name of “firearm” for suppressors, eliminates it.

United States Supreme Court
The filing points to three landmark decisions (Heller, McDonald, and Bruen decisions) as legal standing for ruling against the State of Illinois. (Photo credit: stock)

Just as a quick background for those that might not be as familiar with those mentioned cases, each of those cases has a significant decision regarding the legality of firearm ownership thanks to the Second Amendment. In the oldest decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, outside of service in a militia, including lawful purposes like self-defense within the home.

Following up on Heller, in 2010, in McDonald v. city of Chicago, the Supreme Court overturned the previous decision and stated that the Second Amendment was incorporated within the Fourteenth Amendment, protecting individual rights against infringement by state and local governments. After Heller and McDonald, the court had established a two-part framework to see if laws or rulings interfered with the Second Amendment, combining history with a means-end analysis.

Then with New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc v. Bruen in 2022, the Supreme court rejected the second portion of the framework, instead focusing on the constitutional text and history for a ruling. As such, the court ruled the Second Amendment included the right for an individual to carry a concealed weapon in public. The court went on to state that the text of the Second Amendment goes beyond what the Founding Fathers used as weapons or even the Reconstruction generation, but with the spirit of the text.

With those three monumental decisions, the Second Amendment received a major plus-up in protection. The Complaint that was filed in Illinois points to all three of those decisions and the texts that explicitly shows that the current Illinois law for banning suppressors violates the very heart of the Second Amendment.

Legal Precedence of Lawsuit

So, what happens if the Plaintiffs win? Well, the law would be struck down and suppressor ownership would become legal, at least on paper. If the aftermath of the Bruen decision is any indication, the state would undoubtedly fight back and appeal the decision. But it would also mean, theoretically, suppressor ownership would be legal in Illinois regardless of the current state of ATF or politics. If they win, it could mean legal cases in the other seven states that forbid ownership of suppressors as well, but could have implications beyond just that.

SilencerCo VELOS on rifle
If the men are successful with their lawsuit, it would have immediate repercussions. Qualified individuals would be able to exercise their Second Amendment right to own a suppressor in the state and safely use them on firearms. It will be interesting to see how the case progresses. (Photo credit: SilencerCo)


With over 86% of all NFA applications in 2022 for suppressors, it’s not hard to see the importance of this case. For those of us that live in areas that allow for suppressor ownership, it’s great to see the first steps being taken in those restricted states. The legal argument brought about by the Plaintiffs is a compelling one and it will be very interesting to see how this one plays out.

You can read the filing at

Patti Miller is one of the most awesome females in the tactical/firearm (or any) industry. Imagine a tall, hawt, dangerous Laura Ingalls Wilder type with cool hair and a suppressed blaster and you'll be getting the idea. What's interesting is that in addition to being a willing brawler and intrepid adventuress, she's also an Ent/Ogier level gardener and a truly badass baker.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap