The gun control conversation recently has been all about “dangerous, evil assault rifles” (it’s an ArmaLite Rifle!!) and about how no one “needs” such weapons.
Let’s flash back to the 1930’s. Al Capone was king of Chicago, the government was wrestling with the idea that private citizens didn’t need any guns, and Congress felt like they just had to do something. Sound familiar? Prohibition had just been repealed, but now there was a new problem: gun violence in the streets.
So, the government does what the government does best: screw it up by passing new laws. Enter the National Firearms Act of 1934. (By the way, if this is about all you can read without ADD kicking in, here’s a great summary of the NFA.) The NFA has been updated a few times, including in 1968 and 1986, but let’s dig into it a little bit. If this doesn’t creep you out, nothing will (here’s the first line from the Wikipedia article under the Background section):
- The purpose of the NFA was to regulate what were considered “gangster weapons” such as machine guns and short barreled shotguns.
Take that term “gangster weapons” and replace it with “evil assault rifles,” and welcome to 2013.
But instead of debating the “need” for semi-automatic defensive rifles and standard capacity magazines, I think the gun control debate today should be on whether or not the National Firearms Act is Constitutional at all.
First, let’s discuss what the NFA even covers (read about the NFA here):
- Machine guns;
- The frames or receivers of machine guns;
- Any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting weapons into machine guns;
- Any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for converting a weapon into a machine gun;
- Any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if the parts are in the possession or under the control of a person;
- Silencers and any part designed and intended for fabricating a silencer;
- Short-barreled rifles;
- Short-barreled shotguns;
- Destructive devices; and,
- “Any other weapon.”
So if you wish to acquire any of these items, they’re not illegal (in most states – some states have laws against some of these), you just have to jump through the hoops identified by the NFA itself.
(from the ATF website)
Q: How can an individual legally acquire NFA firearms?
Basically, there are 2 ways that an individual (who is not prohibited by Federal, State, or local law from receiving or possessing firearms) may legally acquire NFAfirearms:
- By transfer after approval by ATF of a registered weapon from its lawful owner residing in the same State as the transferee.
- By obtaining prior approval from ATF to make NFA firearms.
Here’s the short version: you need to pay a $200 tax stamp for your item that is covered under the NFA, then receive approval from the ATF, complete with a background check (unless the item is going into a gun trust, but that’s another story). Then you wait. And you wait. And you wait some more. But in theory, the ATF finally approves your request, then that item becomes legal for you to own and use… and ONLY you. You can’t give it to anyone else, you can’t sell it, you can’t cross state lines with it without permission from the ATF, blah blah blah.
For most people that want to acquire an item covered under the NFA, here’s what the process looks like:
- You find the item you want… let’s say a shotgun with a barrel of under 18 inches. Finding the item itself can be a struggle these days, but let’s say you go into a gun store and they have exactly what you want. Awesome.
- You then likely have to pay for the gun itself. They’re not cheap.
- Next, you submit all your paperwork to the ATF, including your $200 tax stamp. And multiple copies of your fingerprints. And photographs of you. Note: the gun gets to stay at the gun store, so you can’t take it home.
- Did I mention that you have to have the appropriate law enforcement official sign your request form?
- You wait. By some accounts, the wait could be 3-4 months. By other accounts, it could be 10-12 months or more. You’re still light the money you paid and don’t have the gun yet.
- Eventually, in theory, the ATF approves your paperwork! Woo hoo! You now own a short-barreled shotgun!
- But… remember that when you take it to the range now, you can’t let anyone else shoot it. Or hold it. Or look at it longingly. In fact, if you don’t have proof that it’s legally registered to you personally on you when you have the gun, you are subject to serious penalties. And the ATF + “serious penalties” = a situation I never want to be in. Remember Randy Weaver?
- If your NFA item is a suppressor, you can’t just move it to another gun, so I hope you really like the gun.
Next question: why would anyone want an NFA gun? My answer: who cares? Don’t fall victim to the “need” mentality. But honestly, there are many great reasons for owning a gun regulated by the NFA:
- Home defense. Ever try walking around your house with your Remington 870? A regular-sized shotgun (or rifle) isn’t the easiest thing to swing around in hallways and rooms.
- Save your hearing. Why aren’t suppressors mandatory equipment? Imagine going hunting without your ears ringing afterwards, or going to the range without needing awkward and bulky hearing protection.
- Fun. There isn’t much like going full auto. It’s hard to hit much without zillions of hours of practice, but you can’t really put a price on that.
- Let’s be honest about the 2nd Amendment: self-defense is a nice side-effect. The primary purpose is protection against your own government. Kinda hard to do that with a Ruger SP101.
Here’s another discussion point: the 2nd Amendment says “keep and bear arms.” What exactly are “arms?” Enter the US Supreme Court and Justice Scalia: “We’ll see,” said Justice Scalia, referring to the need to wait on a court case that gets at the question. He then volunteered that the second amendment refers to the right to “keep and bear” arms, so that it “does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried…It doesn’t apply to cannons.”
So we now agree: the 2nd Amendment applies to something that I personally can carry. I’m cool with that definition. A full-auto rifle, a short-barreled shotgun, or a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon all apply here. I don’t personally feel the need to own an anti-tank weapon, but I should be allowed to. Same thing with a Bugatti Veyron or even a Toyota Prius for that matter. I don’t want one, but the government shouldn’t be allowed to make that decision for me.
Now, here’s my point: in case you forgot what “infringed” means, it means to limit or restrict. How is the National Firearms Act NOT infringing on my rights? It’s an infringement from the core. It clearly violates the 2nd Amendment. The fact that there is now a national registry of these particular guns is also a 4th Amendment violation. It’s a power not given to the Federal Government, meaning it’s a 10th Amendment violation, probably the 9th as well.
If I want to walk into Wal-Mart and buy a suppressor or a short rifle, I should be allowed to. It’s my right.
So here’s a thought: instead of fighting the socialists on their turf (how many times do I have to explain to you that it’s a standard capacity magazine??), let’s start arguing about the National Firearms Act. Clearly it is limiting and restricting my ability to protect myself; and without question, it limits my ability to keep my tyrannical government in check.