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Gun suppressors, like one used in VB shooting, have long approval process

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As the investigation continues into the deaths of 12 people Friday at the Municipal Center, the mass shooting already stands out among similar deadly killings.

Authorities say Dewayne Craddock used a suppressor on his .45 caliber pistol. We know them better as silencers — and they are not easy to get.

The law that governs suppressors, the National Firearms Act, goes back to 1934 in the wake of prohibition and the days of gangsters. That means suppressors are in the same category with machine guns and sawed off shotguns.

So people who were working in Building Two on Friday afternoon and survived the massacre might have been closer to the line of fire than they originally thought.

The suppressor would have muffled the sound but not eliminated it, and misled someone who heard it into thinking that the gunfire was not close by.

Virginia is one of 42 states that allow suppressors, and the nearest one that bans them is Delaware. Police say the suspect’s suppressor was purchased legally.

Advocates of suppressors say they can guard against hearing damage for sport shooters, and limit noise complaints from neighbors who live near gun ranges and hunting grounds.

Opponents say they are only good for stealth — when someone wants to kill without being detected.

If you want to buy one, don’t be in a hurry.

You have to fill out a federal background check, and then give a copy of that application to your local sheriff or police chief. You’ll have to include your fingerprints and a photo, plus a payment of a $200 tax for each suppressor.

We talked with Bob Marcus, owner of Bob’s Guns in Norfolk. He said he had two recent approvals for suppressors and they were filed about a year ago. Marcus says that year-long wait is not unusual.

Marcus says he gets about a dozen applications for suppressors a month, and the devices vary by size and quality and run anywhere from $250 to $1,000 and up.

Government data shows more than 31,000 suppressors were registered in Virginia in 2016.

ATF says if you have a legal silencer attached to an illegal weapon, a machine gun, for example, the prison sentence is not less than 30 years for first offense, and not less than life in prison for a repeat offender.

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