Silencers, also known as suppressors, along with machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, and “any other weapons” (AOW’s), collectively known as NFA firearms, are, and always have been, perfectly legal to own by individuals under federal law. State laws vary on ownership of NFA firearms. However, all of the above items are legal to own in the state of Pennsylvania. Any person over the age of 21 who can legally purchase a regular firearm is qualified to purchase an NFA firearm. No special licensing is necessary to purchase an NFA firearm; however, a onetime transfer tax needs to be paid when ownership of the firearm is transferred. The transfer tax is valid for as long as the owner keeps the firearm. Each time an NFA firearm is transferred, another transfer tax is required with the exception of a transfer to a legal heir of a deceased owner. Transfers to legal heirs are tax free.
NFA firearms must be purchased or transferred through a Class 3 dealer in the buyer’s home state. The transfer tax for a silencer, machine gun, short barreled rifle, or a short barreled shotgun is $200, while the transfer tax for an AOW is $5. The procedure to purchase an NFA firearm begins when the Class 3 dealer and the purchaser fill out an ATF form 4 in duplicate to transfer ownership of the firearm. This will include attaching two passport sized photos to the application along with submitting two sets of fingerprint cards. The chief law enforcement officer (CLEO), typically the sheriff or chief of police, will also need to sign the application. Both copies of the application, along with the finger print cards and appropriate transfer tax, are submitted to the ATF for approval. The approval process is currently taking nine to twelve months after the application has been submitted. Once the application is approved and returned to the Class 3 dealer, the purchaser may then take possession of the firearm. A photocopy of the approved form 4 should always accompany the NFA firearm as proof of ownership. NFA firearms may also be owned by legal entities such as a corporation, LLC, or trust. The application process is similar to the individual ownership process with the exception of the CLEO signature, photos, and fingerprint requirement, which are not required in these instances. Please visit the NFA Trust page if you are interested in purchasing an NFA Trust.
The NFA process may seem a bit complicated, but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Additional information regarding NFA ownership and interstate transport of NFA firearms can be found on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives website.