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Mullins: Silence is golden for some shooters

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Published:   |   Updated: May 26, 2013 at 01:21 PM

There's lots of good retail and restaurant news at the end of this column, but let me begin with something of a quiz about guns.

Watch any good spy movie, and sooner or later the hero/villain will pull out a gun with a silencer attached. Rather than a loud “BANG,” there's a stealthy “pa-TING, pa-TING.”

But can silencers do that, and are they legal in the real world? Though gun aficionados may know the answer, I did not.

Silencers seem like something a master criminal or James Bond gadget maker would craft in their secret workshop. Before researching this, my friends were split 50/50 on whether they were illegal. So here's one answer: They're legal, sort of.

Silencers may rank as one of the most elaborately regulated and expensive consumer products in the country. They're basically a metal tube full of muffler material, but you can't simply stroll into a store and pick one up like a pair of jeans, gallon of milk or even a shotgun, for that matter.

Turns out, Florida is one of 39 states that allow people to buy silencers, or “suppressors,” as they are marketed. The definition of “people,” however, is complicated.

To see how silencers work, we went to Tampa's huge Shooters World gun shop. On its shooting range, general manager Bruce Kitzis fired an assault rifle with a shortened barrel and then a pocket .22-caliber pistol, with and without silencers attached.

The assault rifle made a chest-thumping explosion. Without ear protection, I might lose hearing for hours. Adding a silencer reduced that sound to a loud bang, like slamming a hammer on a granite countertop. The pistol, however, went from a loud “Bang!” to a sound that resembled breaking a pencil. A subdued “Snap!”

Like all things firearms, controversy surrounds silencers. Some think they are garish and sinister tools geared for people with a killing fixation; why else would one need to conceal their shooting? But others, including Kitzis, think they're simply prudent for protecting your hearing, and they reduce the recoil thump to boot, making shooting more comfortable.

Only about 1 in 50 people using the shooting range bring a silencer, Kitzis said. The devices remain a niche product, partly because of the regulations involved. They are Class 3 weapons under federal law, similarly regulated as machine guns. Some states allow them only for hunting, and others prohibit them outright.

To buy silencers, Kitzis advises customers to contact an attorney to create a “gun trust” that formally owns the device; that costs about $250. Then there's a $200 federal tax, plus the cost of the silencer, which can range from $400 to $2,000, plus several hundred dollars to refit a firearm to attach the device. The background check can take 6 to 9 months.

It's like buying a Mercedes SUV and then telling the dealer you want to make it a convertible-top low-rider. It can be done, with a lot of time and money, and in Florida, it's perfectly legal.

Other retail, restaurant and trend news across town:

Cellular companies have refined their systems to let people quickly and easily donate to disaster relief efforts. Many nonprofit organizations have systems, and in the wake of the tornados in Oklahoma, donate-by-text systems are among the easiest ways to give. Cellphone users can donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting “REDCROSS” to the number 90999. The charge appears on your phone bill. Check with your charity of choice for their text code.

For many years, Florida has run a tax-free holiday leading up to the school year for supplies such as pencils, paper and calculators. This year, legislators added new items for the Aug. 2-4 tax holiday: personal computers and accessories. There's a $750 limit, so any dollar amount above that level is taxed at the normal rate in your jurisdiction. That's a handy threshold for tablets and e-readers.

Retailers are working out the details, but likely you can also order online during that period, tax-free. The tax waiver applies even if you don't have a kid in school.

The Florida Retail Federation offers these tips: “The term 'personal computer' includes any electronic book reader, laptop, desktop, handheld, tablet, or tower computer, but does not include cellphones, video game consoles, digital media receivers, or devices that are not primarily designed to process data.

The term 'related accessories' includes keyboards, mice, personal digital assistants, monitors (except those with TV tuners), modems, routers, and non-recreational software.”


Assemble the Minions! Toys R Us cut a deal with the producers of “Despicable Me 2” for a line of toys evocative of the wildly popular “Despicable” franchise, just as the sequel is set to debut July 3rd.

Oh how parents will love them. Plush Minion dolls, and, let me quote Toys R Us here, a “Fart Blaster” that emits banana-scented explosions. Price: $34.99. There's also a Minion-themed “Operation” board game, and for real fans of the movie, there's a massive “Despicablimp” that looks like an elongated Minion and is floating over U.S. cities. Track it at www.despicablimp.com.


Cigar City Brewing is giving a fond farewell to one of its top brewers, Ben Romano, who is moving on to help launch the upstart Angry Chair Brewing in Seminole Heights. That brew site — at 6401 N. Florida Ave., just north of Hanna — will have on-site production and a tasting room.

Craft brewing, by the way, is exploding in popularity nationwide and giving some real competition to mega-brewers. Craft-made beer sales are difficult to track, but racked up between $10 billion and $12 billion last year, roughly double the estimated 2007 sales, and they are on track to top $18 billion by 2017.


Target is joining the video-streaming trend. The retailer has begun testing a video service. Target Ticket, similar to Netflix.

A preview page at www.targetticket.com is meant for employees, but describes access to “15,000 titles, new releases, classic movies and next-day TV” on PCs, Macintosh, Apple iOS and Android phones. The app is available on iTunes and the Android app shop. Aside from competing with Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon and others, this resembles a similar service by Walmart, which acquired the Vudu video service.

Some news may seem 90 percent possible, but interesting nonetheless, and thus I pass along news by the Christian Science Monitor that smugglers who use tunnels to access the Gaza Strip have started offering delivery of fresh, hot KFC. “The al-Yamama company,” the CSM wrote, “advertises its unorthodox new fast-food smuggling service on Facebook” and receives scores of orders, despite charging an extra 100 shekels ($27 USD as of last week's rates) to take the chicken from the fryers at the Al-Arish KFC to customers' doors 35 miles away.


Verizon executives are running victory laps around the office as FiOS TV service scored a fourth-annual win in the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey in satisfaction, overall quality, value, loyalty and retention for subscription TV service.

Arch rival Bright House wasn't scored among companies in the survey because it's national, though the cable company often points to its seven years of high scores with J.D. Power & Associates that ranks them especially well with home phone service.


rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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