Ask people about the current
state of firearms ownership in the United States, and you likely will get two
very differing opinions. Some will say the federal government is overly
intrusive and abusing, if not outright violating, the Second Amendment. Others
might say federal, state and local governments do not do enough to curb
firearms violence, and many with such an opinion flat out want to abolish the
Second Amendment and ban firearms ownership altogether.
Yet, there was a time when
high-profile violent acts spurred federal action to do exactly what many
anti-gun liberals and others want done today. Way back in 1929 on St.
Valentine’s Day, Al Capone sent some men disguised as police officers into a
Chicago-area garage to gun down a rival gang leader. The gang leader didn’t
show up, but seven other victims did in what became known as the St.
Valentine’s Day Massacre. That criminal act, and many others during the
“gangster era” of the 1920s and 1030s spurred the federal government to enact
the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA).
The NFA mostly targeted the
more popular tools used by criminals of the day, including submachine guns,
like the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and Thompson. The NFA originally taxed
machine guns, along with rifles and shotguns with barrels shorter than 18
inches in length, suppressors and “firearms mufflers.”
The tax was a relatively steep
$200 per item, which made it much more difficult for law-abiding citizens to
afford to buy such firearms. Anyone who did buy an item and paid the tax had to
register it with the federal government. Criminals like Clyde Barrow just stole
them from National Guard armories and did not bother with registration.
The $200 tax remains the same
amount to this day, but the NFA has changed in scope. A rewriting of the NFA in
1968 ensures citizens cannot register existing firearms. It also bans firearms
with bores exceeding 0.5 inches.
Another complementary act, the
Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 banned private citizens from possessing
machine guns manufactured after that date. That was great news for those who
already legally owned machine guns, because that greatly increased their value.
Currently, the NFA regulates:
guns, which fire more than one round per trigger pull.
with buttstocks and barrels shorter than 16 inches.
devices, such as grenades.
The NFA is a very powerful tool
that gives the federal government and the President a great deal of leverage
over firearms owners. The recent banning of bump stocks as firearms accessories
is a perfect example. That came after Stephen Paddock used one or more during
the deadly mass shooting on Oct. 1, 2017, during an outdoor concert in Las
Many anti-gun politicians want
the federal government to “do something” whenever a mass shooting occurs, or
other violence happens involving firearms that gets a significant amount of
media attention. The most recent example is the Virginia Beach workplace
shootings done with two handguns, at least one of which was equipped with a
Despite suppressors not truly
“silencing” a firearm, popular media and Hollywood movies would have us believe
they virtually do exactly that. Instead, they are about as silent as a very loud
rock concert – lasting a very short duration. Yet, many politicians are now
considering banning suppressors as firearms accessories that are not protected
by the Second Amendment.
Even Pres. Donald Trump has
said he might consider such a move, just as he did with bump stocks. Bump
stocks now are banned by the ATF, and suppressors might be next.
The NFA is a powerful tool for
regulating firearms within reason. But the “common sense” to which many
anti-gun politicians often refer is too lacking when the NFA becomes a tool for
eroding the Second Amendment. With suppressors now in the forefront for the
recent use of at least one in a mass shooting, yet more pressure has risen to
use the NFA to erode gun owner rights.
Eventually, a liberal will win
the White House. It might not be in 2020, or even four years later. But it will
happen. That liberal very likely will have enough support to modify the NFA
further via laws, as well as by presidential order. Some say that is the
situation now, with President Trump. How he handles suppressors might reveal
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