CMMG Banshee short-barrel rifle
Short-barrle rifle (Jeremy S. for TTAG)
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By Mark Houser

Under the National Firearms Act (NFA), you can be imprisoned for owning an otherwise legal rifle or shotgun if it has a short barrel. Government agents might even kill you — you certainly wouldn’t be the first person killed in the course of enforcing restrictions on short-barreled firearms. And the worst part? You could suddenly and unintentionally find yourself in felonious possession of such a restricted weapon — even if you haven’t broken any laws.

Through regulatory magic, the decisions of federal bureaucrats can “transform” an unremarkable firearm that you already legally acquired and possess into a firearm that’s illegal under the NFA, without any actual legislative changes taking place.

Restrictions on short-barreled firearms curb the exercise of the fundamental and constitutionally protected right to bear arms. Yet, these laws lack any plausible pretext of public safety value. Even worse, peaceful and law-abiding citizens can easily run afoul of these laws through no fault of their own.

The National Firearms Act makes rifles and shotguns with barrel lengths of less than 16 and 18 inches, respectively, presumptively illegal to possess. Pistols are not subject to this minimum barrel length requirement.

The NFA’s restrictions on short-barreled rifles and shotguns should be understood in light of the NFA’s legislative history: it was originally intended to target all small firearms, including pistols. Minimum barrel length requirements for shotguns and rifles would have been a natural accompaniment to pistol restriction, or else that restriction could simply be circumvented with “small rifles.”

However, when the pistol restrictions were dropped from the NFA bill in order to garner sufficient support for its passage, the minimum barrel length requirements for rifles and shotguns remained. In this sense, the NFA’s barrel length restrictions are a peculiar legislative vestige — they’re intended to stop an end-run around a law that never actually existed.

Other dimensions (not just barrel length) also matter. For example, a shotgun of less than 26 inches in overall length that’s intended to be fired from the shoulder, regardless of its barrel length, is also restricted under the NFA’s “any other weapon” (AOW) classification. Possessing an unregistered AOW is also a felonious violation of the NFA. For the sake of concision and to avoid excessive technicality, I’ll be focusing primarily on short-barreled firearms, but it’s good to keep in mind that barrel length is not the only relevant dimension in this conversation.

The Hurdles To Owning a Short-Barreled Firearm

The processes by which an individual may legally acquire and possess a short-barreled firearm are intimidating, intrusive, lengthy, onerous, and expensive. In addition to the background check that’s also associated with any other firearm purchased from a dealer, purchasing or making a short-barreled firearm requires the submission of fingerprints, photographs, registration paperwork, and the payment of a $200 tax.

The ATF will take months — or even a year — to approve the forms. And this process doesn’t confer some sort of license —it’s merely a registration of that specific firearm. And the process must be repeated for each short-barreled firearm individually.

tax stamp detail
NFA tax stamp (Woody for TTAG)

Why would anyone bother with all that just to legally acquire a rifle or shotgun with a short barrel? Short-barreled firearms have some distinct advantages over their larger counterparts, such as light weight and ease of handling in confined spaces. Generally speaking, rifles are much more capable (in terms of power, accuracy, ability to mount accessories, etc.) and much easier to use effectively than are handguns.

However, those benefits can be negated by the length and weight of a full-size rifle. In fact, for people with certain physical limitations or disabilities, a short-barreled rifle may simply be the only viable rifle option.

Now, suppose you’ve jumped through all of the hoops necessary to legally possess a short-barreled firearm. After all, as long as you have no criminal record, plenty of time and money, knowledge of the ever-changing interpretations of an octogenarian law, and the willingness to part with a good measure of your privacy, you certainly can do it — though, it is worth considering how such hurdles disproportionately infringe on the Second Amendment rights of the less affluent and those who, with good reason, may have less trust in our governing institutions.

However, even after completing the process, you will still be subject to special restrictions which could easily ensnare people who have no malicious intentions. For example, you can’t transport that firearm across state lines without receiving permission from the ATF to do so. If you live near state boundaries, you could easily find yourself a single missed freeway exit away from committing a life-ruining felony. (As a gun owner and former northern Virginia resident who frequently crossed into DC and Maryland, I can attest that this is a very real concern.)

No matter where you take your firearm, you need to be prepared for a “Papers, please” demand: your proof of registration “must be made available upon request of any ATF officer.” NFA rules also complicate the process of lending, giving, or selling your short-barreled firearm to someone else. In this sense, it’s hard to say that you even fully own that firearm — the ATF has a great deal to say about what you may do with it.

At this point, it’s worth momentarily reflecting on the fact that all of the aforementioned rules apply to the possession of a Remington 870 shotgun with a 17.5 inch barrel, whereas none of those rules apply to the possession of a Remington 870 with an 18 inch barrel, the latter of which you can acquire, with a simple background check, in virtually any store that sells firearms. These laws are truly ridiculous.

Accidental Felonies

But, even if you do everything by book and consistently follow the letter of the law, however silly it may be, you’re still not in the clear.

The most insidious aspect of the restrictions governing short-barreled firearms is that they have been known to suddenly change with the whims of federal regulators. To an extent that few people appreciate, federal gun policy is not only enforced, but also dictated by the ATF. New policy comes about not through the passage of legislation, but simply through the decisions of agency officials.

This is most easily observed with respect to the ATF’s changing positions on pistols equipped with stabilizing braces. In 2015, the ATF decided that the physical action of holding a pistol equipped with an ATF-approved brace to one’s shoulder was equivalent to creating an illegal short-barreled firearmThat is to say, you could pick up your perfectly legal pistol (which is not otherwise subject to the NFA’s minimum barrel length restrictions) and unwittingly commit a felony by virtue of the way you held it.

That guidance directly contradicted a 2014 ATF letter that said just the opposite. In 2017, new guidance was issued which appears to sanction the shouldering of a braced pistol so long as such use is “incidental, sporadic, or situational” — whatever that means.

SB Tactical pistol stabilizing brace
AR pistol with stabilizing brace (JWT for TTAG)

You can also run afoul of the ATF’s rules without even touching your otherwise legally-possessed firearm. Just last year, the ATF issued new measurement guidelines that transformed some conventionally legal pistols into presumptively illegal “any other weapon(s),” depending on how they were configured and accessorized. Firearms that Americans purchased legally suddenly became felonious to possess despite that fact that no laws per se were changed.

The problems with these rule changes are compounded by three factors. First, as mentioned above, such changes are not the deliberative product of openly debated legislation, but simply the dictates of agency officials.

Second, the rule changes are often buried in letters responding to particular inquiries rather than being announced and discussed publicly. It is entirely unreasonable to expect ordinary people to keep up with policy changes that occur in that manner.

Finally, violating these policies — perhaps “finding oneself in violation of these policies” would be more apt — is a felony, just as if the policies in question were actual laws. The manner in which the policies are created and disseminated does nothing to diminish the consequences associated with violating them.

And yet, there is actually significant debate over the legitimacy of regarding policy so created as real and binding law. Holding Americans criminally liable for violating “policy” created by correspondence is, at the very least, a highly suspect practice.

But What About Public Safety?

I’ve discussed, at some length, the laughable absurdity of the United States’ restrictions on short-barreled firearms. Presumably, these policies are enforced in the name of public safety, so let’s look at the other side of the equation: Is there any public safety value in these restrictions?

There is none.

For starters, the premise that criminals are more dangerous when armed with SBRs compared to rifles with longer barrels is debatable. Some of the desirable qualities of SBRs are discussed above. However, such advantages are counterbalanced by other factors.

All else being equal, projectiles fired from SBRs have less energy than those fired from longer-barreled rifles. A shorter barrel often comes with a shorter sight radius, which makes the weapon harder to aim effectively in the absence of an optic.

SBRs also suffer from greater muzzle blast, flash, and recoil, all of which can make an SBR more difficult to use effectively relative to its full-size counterpart. Compared to rifles with shorter barrels, SBRs are not categorically more capable. The relative capabilities of the two weapons depend largely on context.

SIG MCX Virtus SBR
SIG MCX Virtus SBR (courtesy SIG SAUER)

Moreover, shotguns and rifles of any sort are rarely used in homicides, despite the fact that even short-barreled rifles and shotguns are very easy to acquire or make if you don’t care about breaking laws (discussed below). Attempting to curb homicides by restricting rifles and shotguns is invariably a fool’s errand, and that’s doubly true for subsets of either type of firearm.

But let’s forget all that and simply suppose that SBRs are “more deadly” than longer weaponsDoes restricting short-barreled firearms actually prevent criminals from acquiring them?

No, not at all. There are many ways of easily and effectively shortening an otherwise legal rifle or shotgun. For example, it takes no mechanical skill or tools to replace the upper receiver of a perfectly legal AR rifle with the upper receiver taken from a perfectly legal AR pistol, thereby creating a short-barreled rifle. Sure, it’s a felony to do so, but I think it’s safe to say anyone who’s willing to murder innocent people is not concerned about violating National Firearms Act statutes.

Sawed off shotgun
Sawed-off shotgun (By I, Bluedog, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

Aside from swapping components to create short-barreled firearms, longer barrels may simply be cut with commonly available tools: criminalizing the possession of “sawed-off shotguns” does nothing to complicate the simple act of lopping off a few inches of barrel with a saw.

And shortening a rifle isn’t the only way to create a short-barreled rifle: one could also add a stock to a pistol, which, legally speaking, would constitute the construction of a short-barreled rifle. For some combinations of pistols and stocks, this would also be an extremely easy task, requiring little or no mechanical ability.

Configuring a firearm as such without the ATF’s approval would be a felony, but, again, it’s unlikely that murderers are interested in the ATF’s technical — and somewhat fluid — definitions of “short barreled rifle” or “any other weapon.”

The existing regulatory regime does nothing to prevent criminals from acquiring or making short-barreled firearms. It’s all for nothing: a burden upon and a liability only to those people who are interested in complying with the law, not the malicious actors who actually threaten public safety.

An Unjustified Infringement

Perhaps you believe that our constitutional rights are not absolute. Even if that’s the case, certainly you also believe that any restrictions or limitations placed upon constitutional rights should require some sort of justification — or else you simply believe in a government of unlimited and arbitrary power, wholly unbounded by the Constitution. I’ll assume you don’t.

Where, then, is the justification for the way our government restricts the possession of short-barreled rifles and shotguns? The case to be made in the name of public safety is worse than flimsy — it’s nonexistent.

But while there’s no such justification, we see that, on the other side of the ledger, this regime of restriction does have a real cost. It is an imposition upon our natural and constitutionally-protected liberties. The regime makes the exercise of those liberties costly and exclusive. We should look with great skepticism upon policies that restrict the enjoyment of our liberties to the elite and the privileged.

Moreover, the restrictive regime makes even the lawful exercise of our liberty nonetheless legally perilous. No peaceful person should have to worry about accidentally committing a felony on account of nonsensical policies that have sprung up around her, without debate, announcement, or adherence to legitimate and constitutionally-enshrined lawmaking processes.

It is past time to reexamine the National Firearms Act, its restrictions on short-barreled firearms, and the ATF’s rule-making by fiat.

Mark Houser independently researches and writes on firearms-related issues.

 

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172 COMMENTS

  1. The whole NFA (plus 1968 GCA, Brady, etc) is nonsense and violates the basic human right of self defense (which the 2nd Amendment is supposed to uphold). We deal with this crap, but don’t have to pretend that it is legitimate.

      • Hmmm

        The 2nd Amendment in its entirety: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

        As written the phrase contained within the 2nd amendment, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” is clearly and unambiguously a subordinate clause which explains why “the right of the PEOPLE (not the militia) to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” was created.

        The metal gymnastics required by those claiming it is the other way around, isn’t just intellectually dishonest, it is historically false.

        More importantly is what is NOT contained in the 2nd Amendment. There are NO limitations, exceptions or exemptions granted the US Government contained within the 2nd Amendment. Period! end of discussion.

        Demanding we the people accept the changes wrought by legislative, judicial or executive fiat arbitrarily imposed by government officials and politicians without the benefit of the Constitutionally mandated Constitutional approval of the collective states are without question or equivocation acts of sedition and/or outright treason.

        If violations are occurring with regard to the bill of Rights, (particularly the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Amendments) they are not being committed wholesale by the people, rather by corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and the cabal(s) that control them….America belongs to the people, not Washington or any State Capital….

        The bottom line is this entire discussion regarding our unalienable right to bear arms hinging on tiny details and arbitrary rulings by petty bureaucrats is entirely moot. Come to think of it, at least according to the writings of many of the founding fathers, it is no small irony that this was one of primary motives for including the 2nd amendment in the first place….

      • Well, let us examine the second amendment! A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed
        Well regulated , meaning to run smooth, be disciplined , well supplied. Militia meaning the body of people consisting of lawful citizens in a free state of existence.
        Security , meaning to keep safe . Necessary meaning needed , essential Free state, meaning the collective of states, the whole nation.
        The right , meaning those essential liberties that all people have regardless of government. The people, the lawful citizens in a free state of existence
        To keep, meaning to own and posses And bear, meaning to carry on or about ones person either open or concealed.
        Arms , meaning weapons Shall, meaning must, will . infringed, meaning restricted , retarded , suppressed.

        Therefore, a well regulated, smooth running ,well supplied, disciplined Militia being necessary, essential, needed, for the security, safety, of a free state, the whole nation, for national security.
        The right, liberties, of the people, free and lawful citizens, shall not, must not , will not be infringed, restricted suppressed.
        Now if you suppress, restrict or infringe upon the rights and liberties of the people to keep, own, and bear arms, open or concealed you are compromising national security.
        The crime of jeopardizing national security is treason.

  2. I completely agree with the overall gist of the article. Short-barreled weapons’ inclusion in NFA is stupid, outmoded “guilt by association” / “moral panic” based legislation rooted in the supposed preferences of sensationalized 1920s and 30s gangsters. It’s counterproductive, even if one accepted gun grabbers’ assumptions and arguments as valid. It’s also largely neutered by bullpups, recent rulings on pistol braces and “firearms” (stockless <18"bbl weapons that shoot shotshells), etc. As these create more precedent, the others in this category become lower-hanging fruit for legislative change.

    That said, there's an error in the article: AOWs include NON-shoulder-fired under-26" shotshell weapons. "Intended to be fired from the shoulder" makes it an SBS.

    • Let’s be real, sound suppressors (legally called “silencers,” which is a misnomer since a firearm equipped with a suppressor is as loud–or louder–than a jackhammer) should not be regulated either. They are a safety device and nothing more.

      There is *NOTHING* silent about them. They simply make a gunshot less-damaging to our hearing and less disturbing to those around the shooter.

      They were added to the NFA out of ignorance and fear (which usually both go hand-in-hand), as much policy tends to be steered by.

  3. If the shoe fits wear it. Some Gun people talk big sh*t. And then don’t go and vote. Or they will say. “it doesn’t matter who you vote for”. “They are all the same.”
    Short barrel firearms are the quintessential self defense weapon. They are practically useless for hunting. Now name a Libertarian, Republican, or Democrat, who has introduced legislation to repeal the NFA???

    Trump 2020

      • Thank you sir. At least someone is trying. State level constitutional carry only happens in your state if they TRY to make it happen. If they don’t try it will never happen. At least I can send him a letter of thanks for at least trying.

    • So, your point? Didn’t you just point out they are all the same? At least as far as NFA restricted firearms are concerned?

      • Do you think a “3 or 4 inch barrel ruger 10/22” would be the same as a 16 inch barrel ruger 10/22???
        I would love to have an SBR with a 30 round mag that could fit in my tool box. With the tools in it. In fact if I dressed properly. I could wear it to a dinner date and no one would know.
        (smile)

    • Well, we currently have a presidential candidate who has addressed this topic in no uncertain terms…

      “I support the repeal of all laws restricting the right to bear arms, including red flag laws. I would abolish the ATF whose sole purpose is to enforce unconstitutional laws.” Jo Jorgensen

      Vote for whomever best aligns with your ideologies.

      • And IF the 2A were the only policy issue, I would agree with you. It’s not and, as much of a 2A absolutist as I am, I simply cannot vote for many of her “policy” prescriptions. That party calling themselves “Libertarians” reminds me of “The Princess Bride” – “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

        The Libertarian Party (capital “L”) is a bunch of people ranging from “nice but misguided” to “batshit crazy”. Yeah, Trump is a problem, and Joe Biden/Kamel-toe Harris are a disaster. Don’t really see Jo Jorgensen as the answer, even IF she had a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning.

      • Been registered Libertarian my entire life, never voted libertarian once. We have a system that makes a third party just a fail outta the box. I dont have to like it, but there it is.

        You got choice A) the pompous airbag that will promise the moon and the stars and do nothing to eliminate ridiculous gun laws no matter what he says on the campaign trail.

        and B) the pseudo-vegetable who is a place holder for a self-described gun confiscator….who will do nothing to increase the gun laws in any meaningful way, no matter what she says on the campaign trail.

        I’m going with pompous airbag, over pseudo-vegetable placeholder but to each his own

        • “I’m going with pompous airbag, over pseudo-vegetable placeholder but to each his own.”

          Nah. Go for the veggie. Let’s get this over quickly, and reboot.

        • “…to each his own”. I heartily concur.

          It is intriguing that you are a member of a party that you have never voted for. I joined the Republican party in 1986 and voted Republican for 20 years. After registering as a Libertarian, I have only voted Libertarian since 2008.

          One could argue that… “We have [voters] that makes a third party just a fail outta the box.”

          “I dont (…) like it, but there it is.”

  4. Soooo…according to the ATF Regulations-du-Jour, a legally purchased Mossberg 501A 12 ga shotgun with a legal 18-1/2″ bbl but with the optional pistol grip installed in lieu of the regular stock is less than 26″ overall and is therefore rendered an NFA restricted firearm?

    NFA is antiquated and needs to be rescinded. It’s a hangover from Frank Roosevelt’s four-term reign of terror anyway.

    • Mark, I don’t think so, the shotgun which has a pistol grip rather than a stock is NOT restricted, as witness the Mossberg Shockwave, which would be an NFA restricted “short barrel shotgun” (14″) except it has a pistol grip, which makes it just another gun, non-NFA.

      OTOH, you are correct about the NFA needing something, my suggestion would be complete repeal, it is clearly unconstitutional anyway.

      • Larry, Mark,
        I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. The Shockwave is legal because it’s over 26″. If you pistol-gripped an 18.5″bbl shotgun and made it <26", it would become an SBS even without the stock because it started out with one. My M500 is at my other place so I can't measure it now, but IIRC it's not physically practical to attach a usable pistol grip that would shorten it below 26".

        • Neither.

          the Mossberg Shockwave and its clones, was never built as a “shoulder fired weapon” and does not meet the definition in federal law of a shotgun, so it can’t be a short barreled “shotgun“.

          Note in 18USC 921 (a)(5) and 18USC 921 (a)(7) the definitions of “shotgun” and “rifle” include the phrase “… “… intended to be fired from the shoulder …” …”.

          Note also in 18USC 921 (a)(6) and 18USC 921 (a)(8), they refer back to the definition of “shotgun” or “rifle” preceding it.

          18 USC 921 Definitions
          (a) As used in this chapter—

          (5) The term “shotgun” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.

          (6)The term “short-barreled shotgun” means a shotgun having one or more barrels less than eighteen inches in length and any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification or otherwise) if such a weapon as modified has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

          (7)The term “rifle” means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.

          (8)The term “short-barreled rifle” means a rifle having one or more barrels less than sixteen inches in length and any weapon made from a rifle (whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) if such weapon, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

          The Shockwave was not intended by the manufacturer to be “… fired from the shoulder …”, thus it isn’t a “shotgun” and not subject to the restrictions placed on a “shotgun”.

          Note the part that says any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification or otherwise).
          If it never was a shotgun, it can’t be made from a shotgun.

          Legally, it’s not a shotgun or pistol because it doesn’t meet the definition of a pistol either,

          18 USC 921
          (a) As used in this chapter—

          (29) The term “handgun” means—
          (A) a firearm which has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand; and
          (B) any combination of parts from which a firearm described in subparagraph (A) can be assembled.

        • Knowledge is Power,
          If you’re disagreeing with me, I’m not sure how. Agreed that a Shockwave could never be an SBS for exactly the reasons you cite, but it WOULD be an AOW (like the “Serbu Super Shorty”) if under 26″ OAL.

          Mark’s question, however, was about the 500, which IS a shotgun, WAS designed to be fired from the shoulder, and therefore WOULD be an SBS if modified to below 26″.

  5. Politics aside, why would anyone want a short-barrelled AR-15?? The ballistics SUCK.

    ballisticsbytheinch.com/2011graphs+/223ME.html

    The .357 is far better at almost every barrel length

    ballisticsbytheinch.com/megraphs/357mag.html

    Oh. I know why. It “looks cool.”

    • You got a magazine-fed .357 semi-auto modular style rifle (i.e. buildability, modifiable, etc) for $500* that I can buy? Cause I will.

      *pre rona prices… I dunno what an AR costs now

    • I want a short barreled AR-15, what’s it to you? And I own one, suppressed, in .300 blackout, with a 9″ barrel, it works real fine, why does it need to be registered with the goons at ATF?

      • As do I. The only difference between my/our config as SBR or pistol is the butt-end of the brace/stock. Solid?…SBR. Split design with velcro strap?…pistol. All other aspects such as barrel length, sights, mag capacity, grip, et al are the same, as is the lethality.

        I think that the melding of all-things-firearms as a result of modern innovation has removed the muddied line between classic pistol and long gun. The NFA really has no relevance whatsoever anymore, regardless of what *might* have been argued decades ago. It’s a dead zombie document that needs to be buried.

        • “The NFA really has no relevance whatsoever anymore,…”

          The NFA is quite relevant today: a tool of politicians to use in achieving political goals. If NFA were useless to politicians, it would have been repealed long ago (as it is not a money-generator for government).

      • As shown on BBTI, 10″ barrel .357 KE exceeds that of a 10″ barrel .223 (theoretically, although cylinder gap will detract).

        Ballistics isn’t everything, though. The average M-16 rifleman might lose a few points on the rifle qual with an SBR due to increased muzzle blast and flash, and decreased sight radius. No one but Jerry Miculek would have a chance on the rifle course with a .357 revolver.

        • You realize kinetic energy is by itself a horrible metric for measuring a rounds potential. You get a far flatter shooting round, you get rounds with significantly better penetration, and far greater lethality than any .357 with 5.56 even at the 10inch barrel length.

        • Seans,
          Yes, you’re absolutely right about “flatter shooting” and “better penetration”. I also agree that KE isn’t everything.

          Lethality varies with a number of other factors related to delivering that energy on target. As I alluded in my previous post, the SBR’s trajectory (and shoulderable stability) will give it a huge advantage for shot placement. On the other hand, .223 ball won’t expand (and few/none will yaw) at 10″bbl velocities, increasing likelihood of wasteful overpenetration. .357 would penetrate adequately at reasonable ranges, and its bigger blunter bullet is likely to dump more energy in flesh.

    • USSOCOM is very happy with their 10.3″ Mk 18s, but their intended use is inside ships and buildings. At CQB distances, the lower velocity just acts like a longer barrel at longer range. Compare it to the 9mm MP5 it replaced. OTOH, the Mk12 is intended for extended distances and has an 18″ barrel while weighing 10 pounds. Neither is really suitable for the other’s role.

  6. 2 suppressors in NFA jail right now and an AOW to follow shortly (see what I did there?!).
    The wait is a major PITA, the interstate transport restrictions is 100% unadulterated B.S., and the $ is taxation for a Constitutional Right.
    WWOFD?

    • You know the interstate permissions slip (Form 5320.20) doesn’t apply to suppressors and AOWs, right? It’s for machine guns, SBRs, SBSs, and destructive devices. Still, it is a ridiculous infringement of 2A and an overreach of Federal power. If the item isn’t sold, how could it affect interstate commerce? You can’t legally buy another one in the destination state instead of taking your current one, so even the outrageous reasoning of Wickard v. Filburn affecting interstate trade by not participating in it can’t be applied.

  7. I agree that the NFA of 1934 is a mess and I’m sure a big percentage of the TTAG readership would, too. But I want to give you a data point on the “hurdles to ownership”. Early in July, I affixed my legally registered suppressor to my legally purchased Colt M4 (16″ barrel) for the first time and was taken aback by it’s unwieldy overall length. Right then I decided I needed my first SBR. I completed my Form 1 paperwork through the ATF’s e-forms site on 7/9/20. I informed my Class 3 dealer that I would be coming in for fingerprints when I received the emailed cover sheet from ATF. After 9 days it had not arrived and I told him that I was still waiting. He said to go back in and check for the cover sheet. Sure enough, there it was. I was 5 days away from the 10 business day deadline for getting my fingerprint cards to them. Fingerprints were done the next day and I drove to the downtown post office for Priority Mail 2-day shipping. ATF signed for the envelope on 7/22. On 8/6, I received my APPROVAL along with the PDF of my tax stamp. So, 27 days from start to finish, but probably delayed at least a week by my inexperience with the process.

    All in all not a big deal in terms of hassle. Sure, I would rather spend that $200 elsewhere, but hell I just waited 2.5 months for delivery on a pair of boots. It could be worse.

    • Wow, I have NEVER heard of 27 days before. I got my SBR and suppressor paperwork at the same time, and then-recent improvements cut the time down to right around 4 months, though occasional people were still seeing a year . Do we suppose something has been improved? I heard back when that the NFA section of ATF was 8 people, which really seems abusive when it results in year long waits to exercise a right. If you don’t want to man the department, just repeal the law.

      Hey, did your suppressor paperwork come back that fast?

  8. an AR with ten inch barrel using a 30rnd magazine and a Glock with a 5 inch barrel shooting 21. Five inches and nine shots less. What I actually think is the gunm manufactures want the short barrels to save even more money, skeletonized stocks, plastic plastic everywhere, aluminum. Saves money for them but Our prices don’t drop that much. And the silencer thing, gotta have that when ear muffs work better. Still you should be able to own what you want and doctor your gunm up anyway you want.

  9. So, if you do get a tax stamp for a lower receiver as a short-barreled rifle, can you then configure it any way you want (still semi-auto) and be legal?

    • Yes, but it will always be an SBR, even though it’s current configuration is physically and functionally identical to a non-NFA rifle.. It has to remain in your possession unless it goes through an NFA transfer, NFA stamp proof has to be kept with it, and it needs a Form 5320.20 for interstate travel.

    • Don’t bet on it Sam, either way. A sudden change in policy suddenly making loads of people into instant criminals sometimes has a way of affecting the tides of change in a way the policy makers didn’t intend.

      Whether that be with meek civil disobedience with non-compliance ala NZ, mass compliance like the EU continent, or outright revolution as our forefathers did remains to be seen.

      • “A sudden change in policy suddenly making loads of people into instant criminals sometimes has a way of affecting the tides of change in a way the policy makers didn’t intend.”

        An interesting word at the last (“intend”). Seems all the AR pistol holders are depending on the word “intent”, as in the intent of the weapon when manufactured. Being an old word twister (working for the feds), I can see BATF declaring that the “intent” of the AR pistol also includes the intent of the buyer/owner. Thus, the buyer/owner “intended” to be in possession of an SBR, without registering such.

        I keep coming back to the BATFEE declaration that one can be in “constructive possession” of an unregistered silencer simply by having all the components (or quickly produced components) collected in one place.

        • That would be why I prefer bullpup’s where possible over them. Thing’s that are not as subject to the any which way the wind blows through the politicians inbuilt wind tunnels.

          i.e. Their ears.

        • “That would be why I prefer bullpup’s…”

          Change of direction….

          Have handled a coupla bullpup rifles at the gun shop. The are generally good looking items, easy to hold and handle. Question, with the “bang” so close to the face/ears, is available hearing protection good enough? If used without hearing protection, is hearing damage almost assured?

        • Absolutely, I don’t find them any more differing in perceived volume than any other rifle or shotgun. I can’t back that up with empirical data, only by word of “mouth” of the weapon itself. I have lab calibrated mics, albeit the focus is on precision across the audible spectrum, not absolute volume, but for real time spectrum analysis with regard for reproduction accuracy.

          Only difficulty is getting used to pup’s relocation of controls. Also, forget using drum’s due to maneuverability with most, esp. where shotguns are concerned. Large box mags are better for bullpup’s.

        • “Absolutely, I don’t find them any more differing in perceived volume than any other rifle or shotgun.”

          Interesting. If ever I can rent a bullpup rifle, I will give it a try.

          Thanx.

        • Sam I Am,
          I’ve got several bullpup 5.56 rifles with 16” barrels and they are all much more pleasant to shoot than a 10.5” 5.56 AR15, even though their overall length is slightly shorter.

        • “I’ve got several bullpup 5.56 rifles with 16” barrels and they are all much more pleasant to shoot than a 10.5” 5.56 AR15, even though their overall length is slightly shorter.”

          Really? That is quite interesting. Thanx.

      • Ah yes, non-compliance.

        I couple of years ago, some of my buddies and I went on one of our typical trips out to the SoCal open desert to shoot. On this particular trip, there were none of our usual LE-sworn members with us, so on that day we were just a few carloads of regular Joes out for a day of fun and training.

        One of us asked if it would be okay if one of his buddies could come along. No worries, he’ll bring his own truck and drive to/from himself. Sure, we said.

        After the first hour of typical setup, sighting in, and plinking, we got serious and got down to the business of sighting in tactical rifles and such. The new guy asked if any of us were staunch 2A supporters and believed in the “Shall Not Be Infringed” code of the warrior. We said of course…why? He then opened up the first case (of a few) containing what were…shall we say…pure manifestations of Shall Not Be Infringed that he had built himself and were certainly not legal in CA, and a couple of them were dubious at the NFA level. Shall Not Be Infringed, indeed.

        The rest of us enviously looked over his collection, then gave each other that “First Rule About Fight Club” look of understanding to each other and went back to our own shooting. Nobody ever mentioned a word of it again.

        • *grins* Wouldn’t know anyone like that myself. I’ve heard there might be something to when it’s time to bury, it’s also time to dig others up. Some rumors, I swear.

        • Don’t remember that guy’s name (if it was real to begin with), and haven’t seen or heard about him since. A ghost.

        • 9X39,
          I recently read on a prepper kind of web site, something to the effect, “if you think it’s time to start burying arms, it’s probably time to dig them up”.

          I’m sure I ruined the original quote.

  10. The NFA of 1934 was all about gangsters, or rather the fear of Depression era Gangsters. It was nonsense then and it is nonsense today.

    But I just don’t bother with short barreled rifles or pretend pistol-rifle creativity. Ain’t worth the threat of the bureaucracy having themselves an emotional change of philosophy.

  11. Some laws are there to provide probable cause to arrest and jail bad guys who otherwise were not subject to arrest and jail. If the SBR law allows cops to jail a banger/ganger for no other reason than possession of an SBR, is that a bad thing?

    • Yes. It is a bad thing. Bad people should be arrested for doing bad things, not for violating nonsense regulations.

      • “Bad people should be arrested for doing bad things, not for violating nonsense regulations.”

        Working as a fulfillment center warehouse supervisor, I had to lay off about 10 people. Last in, first out sort of thing. One of the staff was a good worker, smart, well-spoken, and displaying about twenty gang and prison tats. When I notified him that he was being laid off, the threatened to bring some of his friends by one day, and put me down. I would have been glad to have this guy jailed on any pretense. As it turned out, we had three warehouses, and I arranged a transfer to one of the others, telling the staff at the first warehouse I was leaving the company. Still, it was a tense year and a half before I actually moved to a different company.

        • , I don’t like threats. I’d have probably invited him and his friends over for dinner, you can always freeze the leftovers.

        • “, I don’t like threats. I’d have probably invited him and his friends over for dinner, you can always freeze the leftovers.”

          Inventive and intriguing idea.

        • The problem you run into is that any pretense you create to jail that guy that isn’t actually something bad will inevitably entrap innocent people who are doing ti with no ill intent.

          Also I do believe a threat is enough to get the cops involved. If the guy is a banger and has any prior convictions that may be enough to get him locked back up.

        • “The problem you run into is that any pretense you create to jail that guy that isn’t actually something bad will inevitably entrap innocent people who are doing ti with no ill intent. ”

          All law “might” be abused/mis-used. I would counter that all laws might also be used appropriately. Again, we are at the intersection: law should punish, or law should deter…or both.

        • While it makes for interesting speculation/discussion, it is a truism of jurisprudence, history, and military science that you don’t make laws/give orders that won’t or can’t be performed or enforced – because it demonstrably reduces respect for and compliance with ALL laws and orders. I could cite you lots of “academic” studies, but they all pretty much come to that conclusion.

          Obvious example? Prohibition. There are reliable and peer-reviewed studies and research papers that pretty conclusively demonstrate that consumption of alcohol – both in quantity and in numbers consuming it – increased during Prohibition. The “War on Drugs” sure has been a raging success, hasn’t it?

          That it perhaps might have benefitted you, personally, in a particular situation is hardly justification for passing, or unconstitutionally applying, a bad law. Sorry it happened to you, but NO, your preference doesn’t justify a bad law.

          And I would think, as a 2A supporter, you would understand that. Apparently, it’s all about who’s ox is being gored, eh?

        • “…it is a truism of jurisprudence, history, and military science that you don’t make laws/give orders that won’t or can’t be performed or enforced – because it demonstrably reduces respect for and compliance with ALL laws and orders.”

          And here we are. There is no guarantee that enforceable laws result in more respect for those laws. Some laws are enforced through voluntary compliance. But, with tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of laws “on the books”, an old adage leads nowhere.

          So, should law be only punitative, or prohibitive? Or both? I kinda prefer the law of the jungle, and law is only punitive. Get away with whatever you can, but get caught, and you go down hard. Of course, even punitive law can be unenforceable.

      • Art, don’t take Sam’s posts as but mostly sarcastic, and/or playing devil’s advocate most of the time. Sometimes, he does possess a penchant for making it hard to tell the difference though.

        • “Or perhaps I gauged this one wrong.”

          The statemement that some laws are created to give probable cause where otherwise it didn’t exist (or to faciitate charges that will be dropped in order to secure a plea bargin) is serious (as in not snark). The question about whether such laws are good for society, that is also serious, but intended to spark thought. One thought being how easily such laws can be abused, another being that pre-emptive arrest might be a good thing in some circumstances…or not.

        • You’re speaking to someone, upon whom that preemptive arrest was executed upon not so very long ago. Based on the falsehoods of the person who has been stalking me, and the lies of the officer in charge who falsely claimed, even though captured on audio/video showing otherwise, who proclaimed I said I didn’t feel my life was in danger. This after they, the on scene officers refused to view the evidence showing him threatening me with a firearm.

          What they have done, is quite literally facilitate stalking & harassment, as he has weaponized the no contact order by intentionally trying to force a violation of it. I feel for you in your personal situation, but I am currently on the polar opposite end of that lance with exactly that being used against me illegally. Take a stab at exactly where I stand on those issues?

        • “You’re speaking to someone, upon whom that preemptive arrest was executed upon not so very long ago.”

          I hear ya. BTDT, it wasn’t fun at all, and it was only accidental that I found out that the authorities had me under investigation.

          As you noted, my intent was to pose a question that has both good utility, and bad. Are any laws predicated on “might/maybe” useful?

        • It’s a precarious balance, freedom always is. How to ensure freedom in the face of law, without ending up on the wrong side of the equation is always a persistent issue. An issue, I might note, every governing body everywhere resents in it’s desire to abscond with all of the power, which is an affront to freedom itself.

        • “How to ensure freedom in the face of law, without ending up on the wrong side of the equation is always a persistent issue.”

          Agree. Dealing with humans is extremely difficult, and tiring.

          To borrow and misuse a famous quote:
          Dying Dealing with humans is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.”
          – – W. Somerset Maugham (edited)

      • This is, in essence, my argument against virtually all “possession” laws – particularly as they apply to firearms and related components. How does my owning, having, possessing something, virtually anything, get defined into a crime? How can one commit a crime without doing harm to another or, at a minimum (and we get into hair splitting territory here) presenting a reasonable threat of harm? I have never had anyone give me a satisfactory argument as to why it should be illegal for me to have an unregistered SBR or SBS. Registered or not, I’m not allowed to go around shooting people with it.

        I would love it if the NFA possession laws were the most capricious but, sadly, they are not. In New Jersey you can be arrested and taken to jail for possession of a hollow point bullet. (Not even a round, the wording of the applicable statute states hollow nose *bullet*.) How on earth could possession of a bullet be dangerous. Buddy of mine in high school had an inert .357 HP round on a necklace. In NJ, he could be arrested for that. (Never mind that he was in danger of arrest from the fashion police everywhere)

        • “How does my owning, having, possessing something, virtually anything, get defined into a crime?”

          People get the government they allow/vote for. The people elect representatives who pass laws. The people then allow those representatives to write whatever laws the representatives believe will keep them elected. The people allow the elected representatives to manage the administration of laws such as to benefit the elected representatives. In short, “We the People” includes people who don’t think like ourselves, and they seem to stay in the majority.

        • “…chartered a Republic and not a dumbocracy.”

          “dumbocracy”. I like that. Glad I said it first. You have permission to use it as your own.

        • I think it’s an obvious phonetic as well as philosophical inference myself, but if you really insist you were first I’m sure there are some people you can convince to send you royalty checks :p

        • “I’m sure there are some people you can convince to send you royalty checks :p”

          I hope so. It is my retirement plan.

        • It’s all about potential, opportunity, and threat. If you don’t have it then none of it applies.
          Of course criminals both on the street and in high office avail themselves of whatever they can find.

        • @Sam

          Yes, I understand the procedural “how” something like possession of an object becomes illegal. The question I am asking, perhaps too clumsily, is, “How did we get to the place where enough voters will elect enough policy-makers who are so unconcerned about rights and freedoms that we end up with laws that, if taken literally enough, can turn a completely reasonable, functioning, peaceful and productive citizen into a felon for owning an object or collection of objects that they may not even know could constitute a crime.” I, for instance, own a shotgun and a hacksaw. Am I in constructive possession of and SBS?

          In other words, I am pondering/questioning “how” so many can be so foolish.

        • “In other words, I am pondering/questioning “how” so many can be so foolish.”

          Tracks back to “The Greatest Generation”.

        • @ Sam

          Yes, to an extent the “Greatest generation” has some things to answer for – as do their parents and their children. I have conversations with people often in which I pose questions about things like possession laws and related, as I see them, overreaches of government and, generally, the responses I get are focused on fear – particularly fear of the unknown. I am not sure how generational that fear is or is not – haven’t drilled down on that much. But, the most common justification I hear for, what I see to be onerous and arbitrary laws, is something along the lines of, “Well, someone who has a [thing] *could* use that thing to do a [harm]. To which I respond along the lines of, “Yes they could. If they do, we should charge them with the crime that most closely fits the [harm] caused. If, however, they don’t cause a [harm], why should we charge them with a crime?” Generally, the response is, “But, but, but, they COULD.” and the conversation dies on the vine.

        • “Well, someone who has a [thing] *could* use that thing to do a [harm].”

          The question here is one of whether “prevention” of crime through declarations (laws) regarding possible behaviors is a valid concept. Even though one element of law is punishment, it seems all law is predicated on the notion that setting limits to behavior actually limits behavior. If society sees that punishment is not achieving the social “good”, what is to be done? Allow the disfavored behavior to become rampant while creating the tools to ensure punishment is meted out? Create a pre-emptive law in hopes of detering the disfavored behavior?

          At the simplest level, let’s consider speed limits. What are they for? Why do they exist? Are they useful? Does society benefit directly, or indirectly? As it stands, the number of deaths and injuries attributed to motor vehicles seems pretty stagnant over time. Yet, vehicles are “safer” than they have been at any time before. Should we wait until speed is determined to be the cause of death or injury? Should we maintain speed limits because although the gross number of deaths and injury seem static, the number of drivers and vehicles in operation keeps growing? It that evidence that the assumption that people will do things to cause death and injury justifies speed limits to contain the number of tragedies each year? If speed limits are good, does that not argue that preventitive laws in general can be declared useful and valid?

          Like with machine guns, the lack of crimes committed with short barreled rifles is self-feeding. Tightly control machine guns, and you squash the crime rate attributed to machine guns. Tightly control SBRs, and you squash the crime rate attributed to SBRs. Question? Do those regulations actually reduce the crime rates, or are the crime rates reduced because of the law? (chicken/egg). Do speed limits contain the carnage, or is the static condition due to safer vehicles? Or due to people simply being more careful because that is a good thing to do?

          Do we want only to deal with outcomes, or attempt to prevent circumstances that would result in disfavored outcomes? Is some pre-emptive behavioral constraint beneficial, and some not? Which, and why? What are the objective standards for determining which pre-emptive measures are permissible, and which are not?

          And the entire premise that pre-emptive law is wrong is based on a “what if”. “What if those laws are mis-used/abused?” Is this not the same justification used to oppose behavior laws based on “what if”?

        • @ Sam

          “The question here is one of whether “prevention” of crime through declarations (laws) regarding possible behaviors is a valid concept.”

          Ah, yes, that is the question and, by posing it you have engaged the conversation that I said usually “dies on the vine”. You also brought up the most common category of laws that fall into the preventative prohibition category in such discussions – speed limits. One could argue that speed limits are indeed an infringement of freedom but a reasonable and acceptable one because excessive speed is dangerous. One could also argue that speed limits, in the absence of damage directly related to speed (as opposed to, say, driver error, distraction, intoxication, etc.) as the proximate cause are arbitrary and useless. Indeed, you have hit the nail on the head when you said,

          “Do we want only to deal with outcomes, or attempt to prevent circumstances that would result in disfavored outcomes? Is some pre-emptive behavioral constraint beneficial, and some not? Which, and why? What are the objective standards for determining which pre-emptive measures are permissible, and which are not?

          And the entire premise that pre-emptive law is wrong is based on a “what if”. “What if those laws are mis-used/abused?” Is this not the same justification used to oppose behavior laws based on “what if”?.”

          Yes, good question and yes, these are the crux of the issue. To what degree should law be malum prohibitum and to what degree malum in se?

          Unfortunately, in my experience, this is a level of discourse that is rarely encountered. The willingness of most people to engage in a constructive discussion at this level is limited at best. In principle, I believe this is the type of discussion we are supposed to expect our elected representatives to have in some sort of good faith, dispassionate context and we, trusting that this has occurred, are supposed to accept and follow the laws and precepts that result. Were this the case, I think things would work out reasonably well. In my opinion, however, the proportion of the population that we label “public servants” is no longer (if it ever was, I only have a half century or so of experience to draw on) a body of contemplative, honest and logical representatives of the people but, rather, a group of self important fools who, for some reason, have enough appeal to slightly over fifty percent of the population to get elected.

          You make an excellent point about the dichotomous nature or “what-if” laws and, in a reasonable (note I did not say “ideal”) world, the discussion about what the benefits and limits of implementing laws as both a deterrent and as a framework for punishment would be a meaningful and recurring debate in the legislative bodies that we ask to govern our communities and nation. What are and where are the limits to a given line of thought? To what degree is a given law preventive or punitive? What is the relationship between potential, penalty and prevention?

          These are excellent questions, with few easy answers, but they are also stratospheric in comparison to the heights of debate that are currently being engaged in by our “betters”.

          Completely reasonable people can come down on various points on this implied spectrum but, I do not have confidence that the current leadership in most of the jurisdictions in our nation even understands the nature of this particular “debate”. (I put debate in quotes because I don’t think you and I are necessarily taking opposing positions but, rather, expounding on a topic from similar, though possibly not identical, perspectives.)

        • Thanks for the detailed and illustrative response.

          “(I put debate in quotes because I don’t think you and I are necessarily taking opposing positions but, rather, expounding on a topic from similar, though possibly not identical, perspectives.)”

          I would say we are not in a debate. My purpose is generally to provoke more than superficial thinking (or mere sloganeering). Along that line, I pose questions in hopes they illuminate the circularity, or inconsistency, of thinking about serious affairs regarding guns, rights, and human behavior. Questions of how our demands are actually mirror images of our enemies, but justified by our particular, and flexible, ideas on what is appropriate when.

          One of my more frequent attacks of questions regards the proclamation that one is hopeless as a suitable POTG when stating, “I believe in the Second Amendment, but….”. The reality is we are all guilty of that if we ever pronounce that one or another exception to absolute right to own a firearm is permissible. If we proclaim even a single exception, we land squarely in the “I believe in the Second Amendment, but…” crowd. We need to abandon that whole meme because it is disingenuous on its face.

          On the whole of your response, I come to the question of just who the founders were thinking of at the creation of the Republic? It seems they were disposed to thinking of a nation of persons with the time and wealth to spend the greater part of their life to questions of great bearing. Whereas, the Republic we were given seems all to openly ignore how the great masses of people consumed (rightly so) almost entirely with just getting through the day successful (we, the people). Maybe, because we were almost exclusively an agrarian society, there was time even for the “average person” to contemplate the great issues, whereas as in an urban society time for contemplation has shrunken to nearly nothing.

        • @ Sam

          Yes, I think the founders of this nation were assuming that the people had time and energy to spend thinking about these questions of great import. Whether this was an assumption based upon their collective life experiences or born from some other source, I don’t know. I have to admit, at this point, a bit of a conceit in that I don’t actually think that most of “we the people” have demonstrated that we have the ability to think about and discuss matters of great import in great depth. (Or, perhaps, many are unwilling to do so and my assessment of their ability is overly arrogant.) Whatever the case, I fear that the public debate and, even, the discussions in our most esteemed institutions, have devolved to mere blame throwing and name calling and are unlikely, in the near future, to become the elevated discourse the founders appear to have assumed was necessary for the flourishing of the republic they had envisioned.

        • In the days of the founders, political office was not a career. Indeed, being a federal bureaucrat wasn’t much of an option (very limited government). Once politics could become a profitable career, election became the prime consideration. All else either interfered with re-election, or generally ensured it.

          I remember a political cartoon from the Bi-Centennial celebration year. The view was from under a grand table, looking up. The drawing included massive chairs pulled up to the grand table. Above the table,on the backs of the massive chairs, in bold letters, the names of the founders. Below the table the tiny legs and feet and names of current, celebrated politicos of the day. There was no caption.

          For those with unshakable faith in the inherent “goodness” of humans, I suggest: “Look around you.”

        • Myname,
          The Founders weren’t so much “assuming”, as setting preconditions more stringent than the processing of oxygen into CO2 over US soil.

        • “The Founders weren’t so much “assuming”, as setting preconditions more stringent than the processing of oxygen into CO2 over US soil.”

          There is a direction this avenue of inquiry could go, but not particularly comfortable.

        • Not my intent.

          If a foreign terrorist bitch, so dedicated to the cause that she’s willing to rob a bank while heavily pregnant, drops her little bastard in the vault, he doesn’t inherit a seat on the bank’s Board of Directors. If the crimes took place in the US, he – not despite, but as a direct result of, Mom’s criminal intrusion into another’s property – one day acquires voting rights equal to yours.

          My teenage sons are not only far more intelligent, but also more rational, responsible, and even in many ways more knowledgeable than the average American voter, and certainly worlds more so than some. The eldest recently became a legal adult. I sometimes solicit and respect their opinions before making a family decision, but I certainly don’t recognize in them a right (much less an equal one) to vote on how I spend my pay – because they had no part in earning it. The Founders didn’t sloganize “no representation without taxation” as they did its converse, but they wisely enshrined their forefathers’ tradition of a stakeholder-electorate into law. They certainly didn’t believe that idling parasites have a sacred right to an equal say in how their hardworking betters’ earnings are spent.

          In the old university tradition, student scholars hired the most reputable thinkers of their day to improve their own knowledge. Imagine the sort of school rules that a traditional Oxonian literary circle might draft for themselves. Now consider how long such a system would survive contact with a typical dumbass fraternity – much less a SpEd kindergarten. Every expansion of our electorate has naturally, inevitably resulted in a dimunition of liberty from the original code of laws that a self-motivated, self-disciplined, self-made republican citizenry drafted to keep their honest neighbors honest.

        • Actually, I cannot find a valid argument for not requiring every person to pass the naturalization citizenship test prior to receiving a certificate to vote. Admittedly it would likely be a one time event, but the result can’t be worse than just letting breathing bodies to vote.

        • @ Sam

          “For those with unshakable faith in the inherent “goodness” of humans, I suggest: “Look around you.””

          An unfortunately instructive suggestion.

      • “Laws selectively enforced are a tool of tyranny.”

        That is the situation already. What is wrong with selectively using such a tool to protect the public?

        And, BTW, we do love us some selectivity when we benefit. Ever talked your way out of a traffic ticket? Know someone who has? Ever fudged your taxes, knowing the IRS selects almost exclusively the tax fileres who potentially will yeild a great boon of back taxes and fines, versus Joey Baggadonuts who files 1040A? And there are so many more examples.

        If we consider selective enforcement of laws to be tyranny, any of us who benefited are taking advantage of selectively, and are aligned with that tyranny, no?

        • Citizens taking advantage of ambiguity to evade persecution for activities that should never have been illegal in the first place is the OPPOSITE of “complicit[y] in tyranny”.

        • “Citizens taking advantage of ambiguity to evade persecution for activities that should never have been illegal in the first place is the OPPOSITE of “complicit[y] in tyranny”.”

          What ambiguity? Talking a cop out of a righteous speeding ticket? Evading income taxes by relying on the selective enforcement of the tax law? Speeding should have never been illegal? Tax evasion should never have been illegal?

        • I should have been more specific. I neither evade taxes nor condone it; it shifts the burden onto all of us who do the right thing. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that the various credits, refunds, and exemptions rewarding personal choices (irrelevant, if not contradictory, to one’s obligation to pay his way in society) erode that sense of civic responsibility.

          On the other hand – with the possible exception of the felony of filing an 18″ shotgun barrel to 17.99″ – there is no law more absurdly undeserving of the appellation “righteous” than speeding tickets.

          Our Founders based our legal rights (and the criminal laws that safeguard them) on the concept of Sic Utere: My rights are bounded by yours, and I may not be held in jeopardy of life, liberty, and property until and unless I am reasonably suspected of violating yours; though a reasonable case could be made for preventing / punishing DIRECT and IMMEDIATE threats as well. A rare traffic law that meets that standard would be driving down the wrong side of a freeway – which forces everyone else traveling in that lane to either relinquish that legal right, or experience severe harm to person or property, just like most violent crimes.

          Conversely, the majority of the traffic code – which criminalizes choices based on a vague, arbitrarily chosen (Why not 56mph? Why not 54?), and OBTW very slight statistical correlation to the historical incidence of harm – is antithetical to Sic Utere. Even more absurd, any of those actions (unless clearly malicious) that cause ACTUAL harm is treated as an “accident” and a matter for civil arbitrators to decide, often without the [ir]responsible individual even having to set foot in court!

          Now compare traffic laws with the Four Rules of Gun Safety. Unlike the traffic laws, the Four are simple, few, obvious, and easy to remember. Also unlike most traffic laws (such as speed limits, which contradict most drivers’ desire for expeditious travel) the Four Rules limit nothing desirable, and simply remind every proficient shooter to shoot the way he would logically choose to. Sadly, a far larger and bipartisan majority of Americans cherishes driving and believes it is a critical part of their lives and freedoms than gun rights – yet there is ZERO criminal enforcement of the Four Rules, or anything even close! Even at crowded ranges, or on opening days of hunting seasons (when the woods look like an orange checkerboard), there aren’t cops anywhere, ever, surveilling and citing and fining and revoking for people who put their fingers on triggers before they are ready to fire, don’t assess for a safe backstop or treat guns as if they’re loaded – AGAIN, until and unless in doing so they pose a DIRECT and IMMEDIATE THREAT to SPECIFIC people (or maybe groups, like a playground full of kids). Simple, effective, respectful of rights as well as safety – Sic Utere.

        • We know that all persons are not virtuous. Do we, as a collection of individuals, deal with individual behaviors solely based on direct impact of behavior on others, or do we, as a collection of individuals, have a responsiblity to ourselves and others, to attempt to prevent potential direct impact of disfavored behavior? Without coming to a societal decision on that question, the details are irrelevant.

          In the example of motor vehicles, do we wait for the carnage, or regulate behavior so as to have the potential to prevent the carnage? In your scenario, a vehicle proceeding wrongway along the road presents only a potential danger of direct impact upon all the vehicles traveling IAW posted right-of-way. By what reasoning does the public/society have authority to sanction the wrong-way driver prior to causing actual damage to anyone?

          If one accepts that it is reasonable to promulgate some preventative constraints to behaviors, it is permissible to promulgate other preventitave constraints. And for the same reason: mitigate the necessity of dealing with the aftermath of an event that impacts directly on others. In the criminal realm, should the public be forced to await crime in order to exact punishment, or make attempts to prevent the crime?

          Once we agree (via legislation/law) on the punishment/prevention concept, we next need to address how to accommodate people unalterably opposed to either (or both) propositions. After that, we can discuss how to implement the details.

        • Sam,
          “Wait for the carnage”? Like the huge fall in annual driving fatalities (despite a large rise in population and vehicle miles traveled) since the ludicrous Federal 55mph limit went away?

          Wrongway driver: direct and immediate threat to actual, identifiable individuals or groups – absolutely analogous, for cars, to (imminent and therefore reasonable) preventive firearm-misuse laws like assault with a deadly weapon or brandishing.

          Some-vague-statistical-correlation BS like speed limits in the desert? Just like lying in wait to arrest you for muzzling your own foot in the desert (or your livingroom), and antithetical to liberty.

        • And you trust the GOVERNMENT to “selectively enforce” these laws PROPERLY to “protect the people”????

          You are literally too stupid to breathe.