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gunlaws As part of a project that I’m working on, I’ve been putting together a relatively brief summary of major federal legislation that controls firearms in the United States. So I have to admit that as a result, I have learned a lot. I present this summary for your reading pleasure. First of all, it may be enlightening to some and certainly may help explain why certain things are the way that they are. My ulterior motive is also to have this explanation vetted by folks who probably know more about this than I do. Did I get the details right? Anything I missed? Need to change? As always, your comments are appreciated . . .

The legal aspects of firearms can be very confusing for many people. In both cyberspace and meatspace (the real world) you will find many Second Amendment purists who take the position that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own, carry and use just about any weapon you please, any place you please. Sadly, this is not the case. As with just about everything else in our lives, firearms are heavily regulated at the federal, state, and sometimes local levels. I begin with the very first firearm law enacted here in the United States – the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Second Amendment

The Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights which encompasses the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The 2A is deceptively simple; “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.” According to Wikipedia,

the right to bear arms predates the Bill of Rights; the Second Amendment was based partially on the right to bear arms in English common-law, and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. This right was described by Sir William Blackstone as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state.

The issue of interpretation revolves around the prefatory clause, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state….” Gun control advocates argue that the right only applies to members of an organized militia while gun rights advocates argue that the militia references all able bodied citizens which at the time of the Constitution were what made up the various state militias.

Both of these groups’ interpretations really are irrelevant because the Constitution is also clear on who gets to interpret its meaning; that responsibility rests with the courts and, most importantly, with the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Over the past 200-odd years, there have been four major Supreme Court rulings on the meaning of the Second Amendment.

United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876) – Technically, this case wasn’t about the Second Amendment per se. Rather it dealt with the conviction of white supremacists for killing black freedmen. In its decision, the Supreme Court refused to apply the Bill of Rights to the actions of state governments and specifically said that the First Amendment right to assembly was not intended to limit the powers of state governments to regulate their own citizens. Furthermore, the Second Amendment was binding only upon the Federal government. This decision formed the legal basis of arguments for state laws restricting firearms ownership for decades to come.

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) – This is quite possibly the most destructive Supreme Court case to the cause of gun rights in the United States. Miller was convicted of violating the 1934 National Firearms Act by transporting an unregistered short barrel shotgun across state lines. Miller challenged the law as being contradictory to the guarantees of the Second Amendment and won his case at the District Court level. The court found that the registration requirement of the NFA was indeed in violation of the Second Amendment guarantees.

The federal government appealed the case to the Supreme Court which is where the irregularities occurred.  Neither the defendant nor his legal counsel ever appeared before the Supremes to argue the case due to financial difficulties and procedural irregularities. You can read the full details in Wikipedia, but suffice to say that when it was over, the Court reversed the District Court’s decision and upheld the legality of the National Firearms Act.

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) – This was a landmark case and the first time that the Supreme Court addressed the Second Amendment since Miller. At the time, the District of Columbia, through the Firearms Control Act of 1975, effectively prohibited private ownership of most firearms within its borders. The plaintiffs challenged the legality of the law and the Supreme Court was only too happy to take a broad look at the Second Amendment. Its decision produced good news for both sides of the debate.

It found that the Second Amendment merely codified a pre-existing right and that the right to keep and bear arms is not tied to service in an organized militia.  Furthermore the ownership of guns considered usual and customary is protected under the Second Amendment. On the other hand, it stated that this right is not unlimited. It’s not a right to keep and carry any weapon in any fashion for any purpose.  The court stated that reasonable legal restrictions can be imposed, which effectively headed off any attack on the National Firearms Act. Finally, as the District of Columbia is a federal enclave rather than a state, the decision didn’t apply to state governments.

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010) – This case was filed against the City of Chicago for its laws effectively prohibiting possession of handguns and heavily restricting the ownership of other firearms. In its decision, the Supreme Court stated that the Second Amendment protections are, in fact, fully applicable to state and local governments and thus completed what the Heller case had started.

Unfortunately, despite these decisions, ambiguity still remains and both gun control and gun rights proponents continue to argue the interpretations of these cases. It’s highly likely that in the next few years, one or more Second Amendment cases will make it before the Supreme Court and further clarity may be provided. It’s important to note however that both the Heller and the McDonald cases were decided by thin 5-4 majorities, meaning that a single change in the makeup of the Court could impact how future cases are decided.

National Firearms Act of 1934

The National Firearms Act (NFA) was passed in reaction to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 in which seven mobsters were gunned down in a Prohibition-era gang fight.  The killers used Thomson Machine Guns on full auto as was fairly common during the era.  The NFA was intended to strictly regulate the ownership and transfer of certain types of weapons. Under the act, all weapons and other that met the definitions of NFA items had to be registered with the NFA Registry.  Over time the specific list of things regulated by the NFA evolved and today regulated items include:

  • Machine Guns
  • Short Barreled Rifles (Barrel less than 16” or overall length less than 26”)
  • Short Barreled Shotguns (Barrel less than 18” or overall length less than 26”)
  • Silencers (Suppressors)
  • Destructive Devices (generally things that go boom plus some large caliber guns)
  • Any Other Weapon (catch-all for things that don’t fit other categories)

Any time a new NFA device was manufactured, it had to be recorded in the NFA registry and its ownership tracked. The record identifying the NFA item was updated whenever that NFA item changed hands.  Most transfers are subject to a fee of $5 for an Any Other Weapon transfer or $200 for the other categories.  Ironically, legislators in 1934 thought that the $200 transfer tax would be enough to effectively shut down the transfer of NFA items because a $200 transfer fee in 1934 would be approximately $3,500 in today’s dollars.  This would certainly put a crimp on transfers. However, it’s good to know that Congress wasn’t much more effective at their jobs back in 1934 than they are today and the NFA never included a clause to index the transfer tax to inflation. While $200 isn’t exactly a drop in the bucket, today it’s nowhere near the obstacle to transfers that it was in 1934.

The NFA is often referred to as Title II, and NFA items are referred to as Title II Weapons (and sometimes Class III weapons).  The term Title II refers to the placement of NFA Provisions within the United States Code.  Although it came much later, the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 (which created the federal Firearms Licensing program and codified a number of gun laws) is Title I of the U.S. Firearms Laws.  The GCA incorporated and re-defined portions of the NFA which in turn became Title II of the Firearms Laws.  The Class refers to the type of Special Occupancy Tax (SOT) license that a dealer holds.  A Class I is an importer, Class II, a manufacturer, and Class III, a dealer in NFA restricted devices.

Gun Control Act of 1968

Like the NFA, The Gun Control Act (GCA) was passed in reaction to acts of violence. In this case is was the murders of the Kennedy brothers (John and Robert) as well as Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. The GCA is what first defined the classes of people to whom it is illegal to transfer firearms; felons, drug users, people who have been adjudicated mentally defective, illegal aliens, etc.  For a complete list, see a form 4473.

The GCA created the federal Firearms Licensing system and mandated that sales of firearms across state lines had to pass through at least one FFL.  Up until this point, anyone could order a firearm from a catalog and have it shipped directly to their door. It further defined the minimum age to purchase a gun as 18 years for rifles and shotguns and 21 years for handguns.  The FFL system mandated that any person or company who was in the business of buying, selling, or making firearms (for resale) required a license.

The GCA limited the importation of military surplus rifles into the United States by applying a “sporting purposes” test. Rifles that did not meet the “sporting purposes” test criteria could not be imported without replacing a certain number of foreign parts with domestically manufactured ones (more on this in a bit). Only hunting and competitive target shooting were viewed as “sporting purposes” by the BATFE, thus foreign made fully automatic weapons such as the AK-47, or H&K MP5 were effectively barred from import as of 1968.  Semi-automatic versions of these weapons were able to be imported until the Semi-Automatic Import Ban of 1989. The GCA mandated that all firearms manufactured or imported by FFL holders after October 22, 1968 had to bear a serial number.  The one exception was for firearms manufactured by an individual who did not hold a manufacturing FFL.  Firearms manufactured by such people did not need a serial number.

Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) was intended to do a lot of good things for gun owners. First of all, since the creation of the FFL system, the ATF had been accused of significant regulatory overreach in their efforts to “control” firearm transfers. FOPA set out to more narrowly define the framework within which the ATF had to operate. FOPA also removed the restriction on ammunition shipments through the U.S. Postal service, permitted long gun transfers across state lines, and enabled a gun owner who was traveling through multiple states to transport their firearms through states where they did not have a permit provided that they legally could possess the firearm at their points of origin and destination.

While FOPA certainly did a lot of good, a less favorable amendment was proposed by New Jersey Democrat (big surprise there) William J. Hughes. In 1968 the GCA had effectively eliminated the importation of foreign-made fully automatic weapons as none of them could pass the sporting purposes clause.  Domestically produced full auto weapons could still be procured (subject to tax and registration under the NFA). The Hughes amendment sought to change all of that and prohibited the purchase of any domestic full auto weapons manufactured after May 19, 1986.

The main impact of the Hughes amendment has been the creation of a finite pool of machine guns that can be transferred to non-military or LEO personnel.  Under the basic law of supply and demand, with the supply effectively capped, prices on legally transferred machines guns have dramatically risen to the point where supply and demand are in equilibrium. A fully automatic version of a semi-automatic gun such as an AR-15 doesn’t cost that much more to make. A newly manufactured fully automatic Colt AR-15 might cost a police department $1,500 – $2,000.  A non-LEO/Military buyer however, must procure an AR-15 manufactured prior to 1986 and legally registered under the NFA.  Since such guns are rather scarce, that twenty five year old Colt AR-15 commands prices in excess of $18,000.

Semi-Automatic Rifle Import Ban (18 USC 925(d)(3)) (1989)

This ban was imposed as a result of the 1989 murder of five children at the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, CA by a deranged drifter wielding an AK-47 pattern semi-automatic rifle. In March of 1989, the Bush Administration temporarily suspended the import of most foreign-made semi-automatic rifles. The ban was made permanent in July of 1989. The “sporting purposes” GCA exception remained, but the meaning of “sporting purpose” is somewhat nebulous. The guidance that we do have is a list of features, which if present on your foreign made rifle or shotgun could disqualify it from being considered sporting purpose weapons.  Features include:

  • Can accept a large capacity magazine
  • Is equipped with a folding or telescoping stock
  • Has a pistol grips (thumb hole stocks however are okay)
  • Can mount a bayonet
  • Either has a flash suppressors or flash hider or has the capacity to accept one, which means a threaded barrel is a problem
  • Includes an integrated military-style bipod
  • Come with a grenade launcher
  • Is equipped with night sights

Unlike Assault Weapons Ban laws, the list above is not purely proscriptive. Simply having one or more of the features does not automatically disqualify the gun from being “sporting,” but obviously the more features on the list it has, the less likely the BATFE will consider qualifying for the sporting clause. It is also important to note that some types of weapons such as Saiga shotguns might be considered under the sporting exemption if they are imported in certain configurations that lack most of the features above. If however, you take your “sporting legal” Saiga and start adding some of the features above back into it, you might create an illegal weapon and run afoul of the BATFE.

18 USC 922(r)

The astute reader is no doubt aware that despite the semi-automatic import ban, AK-47 pattern rifles, AK-74s, and many other foreign-made rifles are still sold in the United States.  You may have wondered how that is possible.  Actually, it’s fairly easy.  Title 18, Section 922r of the United States Code defines twenty specific parts that may be found on an imported long gun.  U.S. importers must replace some of these parts with domestically manufactured equivalents so that in the end, no more than ten parts from the list below are of foreign manufacture.  These parts are:

  • Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings
  • Barrels
  • Barrel extensions
  • Mounting blocks (trunions)
  • Muzzle attachments
  • Bolts
  • Bolt carriers
  • Operating rods
  • Gas pistons
  • Trigger housings
  • Triggers
  • Hammers
  • Sears
  • Disconnectors
  • Butt stocks
  • Pistol grips
  • Forearms, hand guards
  • Magazine bodies
  • Followers
  • Floorplates

Not every gun has all of these components, and in fact the last three are related to magazines, not to the guns themselves.  AK-47s for example have 16 of these parts, Saiga, FAL, and SKS firearms have 17.  This means that at least 6 parts on the AK-47 and 7 on the others must be replaced with U.S. products.  If you purchase a new AK-47, Saiga, SKS, or some another foreign long gun, the importer will have already made the replacements for you.  If, however, you order a parts kit and plan to build a rifle yourself, then you need to make sure you know the origin of all of the parts in the kit and that your finished gun has no more than 10 foreign parts from the list above.

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was also passed in response to firearm violence. In this case, it was the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 which left his press secretary, James Brady, paralyzed for life. The Brady Bill as it was called formally created the system of background checks prior to the transfer of a weapon by and FFL.

Prior to the Brady Bill, FFL holders were required to inquire as to a prospective gun purchaser’s background, but there was no way to verify that the prospective purchaser was telling the truth. The Brady Bill changed that by requiring a prospective purchaser to submit to a criminal background check. Initially the bill mandated a multi-day waiting period during which the FFL would communicate with local law enforcement to vet the buyer, but in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) came online and permitted near instant background checks.  In addition to mandating background checks, The Brady Bill also codified the list of individuals restricted from firearm ownership into what we have today on the Form 4473.

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  1. 18 USC 922(r)

    If, however, you order a parts kit and plan to build a rifle yourself, then you need to make sure you know the origin of all of the parts in the kit and that your finished gun has no more than 10 foreign parts from the list above.

    Good explanation of 922(r), but I have to ask: is there any evidence that an individual owner has ever been prosecuted under 922(r)? If so, has anyone ever been convicted?

    If there have been convictions, were any of them for a single firearm, or were they for possession-for-sale of some significant number of firearms?

    I ask because I see 922(r) considerations come up a LOT in discussions of AK-pattern rifles, but nobody can ever cite an example where an individual has been prosecuted and convicted of a 922(r) violation. This seems to be a regulation which is applied to importers, distributors and dealers, not individual owners, because the market effect of an individual owner with a 1-part-out-of-compliance AK is basically zero.

    It’s purely academic for me, as I don’t own any AK-pattern firearms at this time. It just bugs me when people get all worried about stuff like 922(r) when (in my opinion) they’d have to already be under scrutiny for a whole raft of firearms offenses before a federal DA would consider 922(r) charges.

    • Its an impossible law to enforce at the individual level, but I suspect that if you get pinched for something and they take your guns and examine them, if they want, they can add to your misery.

      • Yep, that’s how I see it. 922(r) violations sure seem to be the sort of thing that happens during a prosecutorial dogpile, when they’re bringing forth a laundry list of charges.

        Even here in CA it seems extraordinarily unlikely that a local LEO would see you at the range with your bullet-buttoned, 10-round-limited, fixed-stock AK and say “I’m gonna call the feds because that rifle looks like it has too many imported parts!”

    • not really. The REAL history of gun control has been at the state level. SCOTUS has been uber slow applying the Bill of Rights to the states.

    • Except for that one instance, I don’t know of any case where that theory has been tested again.

      In Theory you can say all gun laws should be eliminated because there is no equal protection.

  2. Off topic. Just came back from Dicks which just opened in Dublin last week and is the only place that has ammo at a decent price. Their shelves were stocked with everything from 22 to 223. While a few guys were waiting to be helped we were talking about the potential passing of ammo laws in Cali specifically background checks to purchase when the 20 something clerk behind the counter chimes in and says “whats the big deal we have to do it to buy a gun, we have to give the liberals something”. We all turned around at the same time along with a 50s something clerk who i think is his boss and basically we all say are you out of your f-cking mind. His boss looked like he was going to smack him in the head. I got my 3 box limit of 9mm ($15 a box) and said to him maybe he should consider going to work in another department. Otherwise for the East Bay guys they have stock right now so get some if you can.

    • Dicks is selling.223?? Would this be the same Dicks that works for Obama and banned AR (.223) after Sandy Hook? Dicks can drop dead.

  3. The States created the Federal government, and ultimately, as James Madison so eloquently stated, it is up to them to decide if the compact between the states and the central government has been broken.

  4. In addition the the ridiculousness of 922(r), imported parts kits have been increasingly scrutinized in their ‘machine gun’ demilling procedures. In 2003, ATF ruled for more drastic torch cutting of receivers of ‘non-sporting firearms’ to include threaded portion of receivers and also trunnions on AK parts kits. Then in 2005, ATF ruled ‘non-sporting firearms’ barrels were not to be imported at all.

    • Yep. And the rules mean absolutely nothing, and scream of regulations concocted by technical know-nothings.

      The barrel does not make it a machine gun. This was the most baffling law change with regards to parts kit importation.

      The receiver is destroyed when you cut it. It doesn’t matter how much you cut it, or where you cut it. What is the difference between being able to re-weld a full-auto receiver, and just building a new receiver with the evil third hole – which takes all of several minutes to locate, drill, and heat treat? Either way, the builder is a criminal for doing so.

  5. I’m confused how the us gov uses the supremacy clause for federal regulations upon states but not in US vs Cruikshank? You’d think that decision should’ve said that 2nd amendment applies to all states as well

    • MacDonald finally gets there. There was a lot of legal water under the bridge between the late 19th century and now.

  6. I think you missed an important issue in Miller. The court said that a short barreled shotgun had no use in the militia therefore could be regulated. It kind of started all the common usage language and law we have now. I think this is something that could be used to start taking back our rights as things continue towards more firearms freedom.

    • Yes but in Heller SCOTUS revived that remark, more or less. By more elequently said simply an entire type of arms or any modern advances ca not be banned.

  7. I can’t let this pass: “Both of these groups’ interpretations really are irrelevant because the Constitution is also clear on who gets to interpret its meaning; that responsibility rests with the courts and, most importantly, with the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). ”

    Not true. The executive and legislative branches also interpret the Consitution. The Constitution does not grant the Courts the power to interpret the Constitution, John Marshall and the Supreme Court took that on themselves in Marbury v. Madison.

    • Very good Skyler, this same concern occurred to me. An understandable oversight in an otherwise excellent article. It’s easy to assume this since by now – whatever the basis – the principle of “judicial review is so well established as to be unassailable.
      Even so, the present regime, with it’s history of ignoring all restraints of any kind, my indeed use this as an excuse for the next outrage. Will the public stand for this? Will it be the last straw? I should hope so!
      Something of this sort my indeed be “A Bridge Too Far” and rouse a stupefied public and press.

      • Not necessarily true. The militia pre-dates the legislative or executive branches. Therefore it is a Codified Right to the peoples of the States. At anytime the States can remend legislation passed by them as a retort to the elected Federal Representation.

    • Hey Skyler – many thanks. This is the reason I publish some of this stuff as clearly I miss things. I will make those changes in my work and thank you for the education.

    • The people also get to interpret the Constitution, as does every government person in the government. Citizens are able to use their jury nullification power to refuse to enforce unconstitutional laws.

      Individuals in the government are able to nullify laws by refusing to enforce them by their discresion. Police officers may refuse to arrest, for example.

  8. Heller also pointed out that Cruikshank was BS. Racist BS.

    I believe the pushback by adults to Cruikshank and similar was a major force to the creation of the NRA.

    As you’re doing the research/writing how about adding section on how/what gave rise to the antigun wacko “movement”. Like all else in the “progressive” leftist movement origins were in the marxist religious movements of the mid 1800s in Eurup. Transplanted to the US.

    Interesting that, STILL, every dimwitted idea from across the pond (and now the middleast) resonates with the American left.

    • I’ll be honest – this work is for a book that I am hoping to one day write that would be as thorough an introduction to guns as I can make it. Foghorn did a great job last year with his book and I’m certainly not looking to reinvent the wheel, but I come at this from the perspective of someone who is still relatively new to the whole gun thing. I’ve been shooting for years, but only got serious a couple of years ago and in the process of collecting and learning about all things connected to guns, I’ve picked up a lot of great info that I wish I’d had when I was starting out. This is what I intend the work to be.

      That said, I’m trying to be really careful and keep my biases to myself as much as possible. A newcomer to firearms will certainly come to understand the anti-gun bias pretty quickly and doesn’t need education from me to do it. I will however include a section on gun myths that will address some of the B.S. the anti-gun proponents spew.

      • While doing your research, it would be helpful to review the preamble to the Bill of Rights (which explains its purpose), as well as to read the following:
        “The Unabridged Second Amendment” by J. Neil Schulman, (which explains the nuances of the language used in the 2nd Amendment), and
        “Whether the Second Amendment Secures an Individual Right”, An August 24, 2004 Memorandum Opinion for the U.S. Attorney General. (This one is quite long, very detailed and VERY ENLIGHTENING).
        Use Google and you’ll find all three on the net. They leave “liberal-us Progress-evil-us” anti-2nd Amendment arguments in the trash bin of history, relegating them to their only fall back retorts of lies, damn lies, name calling, personal attacks, and insults. Please be kind to them, as they have only the mind of a 14 year old human child.

  9. Regarding the GCA, “It further defined the minimum age to purchase a gun as 18 years for rifles and shotguns and 21 years for handguns.”

    I always thought that this was a rock solid, across-the-board rule, regardless whether the sale was through an FFL or was a private party transfer. An 18-20 year old isn’t walking into Academy and buying a Glock, for example. But just recently, I’ve heard that private party transfers of handguns are legal to anyone 18 or older, who isn’t already an otherwise prohibited possessor (felon, fugitive, the rest of the 4473 categories, etc.)

    Is that true? If so, then essentially the 21+ age limit for handguns would be similar to the NICS check, in that it only applies to transfers involving an FFL, not transfers strictly between private parties. I expect that specific states might still impose their own 21+ rule for handgun transfers between private parties. Absent a state level law, is it legal for a private party (i.e., non-dealer/FFL) to sell a handgun to an 18 year old; providing they aren’t otherwise prohibited from possessing a handgun?

    • That is correct, and 18 year old can buy a handgun from a private party but not an FFL, at least that is how it is here in AZ. That said, it’s still an issue as the same 18 year old is restricted from buying handgun ammunition until age 21.

    • Keep in mind, too, that the rules of the GCA apply primarily to FFLs. Regular citizens are not bound by most of their rules. That said, many states have additional restrictions that would apply to all sales, not just to FFL holders

      • Keep in mind this results in a discrimination of an individual, if male, and fit for militia duty, as required under the Constitution.

        I say this because 18 is still the legal age for registering for the selective service. At that point an 18 yr old can possess a handgun under the intent of the 2nd Amendment. By limiting puchases through non-ffl can constitute a circumstance where weapons quality is not the same in terms of new vs used. Warrantied vs non-Warrantied. Broader selection vs smaller selection.

        No different in a discriminatory sense, from my perspective, than having to sit in the”Black Only” seats. ..

  10. You need to cover 18 U.S.C. § 926A. If you are traveling interstate, it may protect you from a state prosecution.

  11. And let’s not for get the ATF has a VERY long record of bending the laws way past all as written intent. With government out of control, Who answers to the law 2A and the intent of the FOUNDERS them self, not the counts. so what freedom is left? Only the JURY vote….

    • THE COURTS have done a very bad job or should we say no job at all to protect liberty.

      • Their job is to make rulings. It is then up to the Execurive branch to enforce the ruling. That IS the mandation to the executive branch in the Constitution.

  12. The 1968 Gun Control Act’s language reads so dead similarly to the 1934 German Act is because Sen. Christopher Dodd (the father of the recent senator) put it there; some phrases are WORD-FOR-WORD.

    This nutty article says the similarity is real, but we gun nuts are Nazis for thinking so!!:

    I must admit this angle is new to me: yeah, you’re absolutely
    correct, but you’re a NAZI for being right!!!

  13. If you’re looking for a full accounting of gun control in the US, I’d recommend Adam Winkler’s book, Gunfight. It’s a long read, but it doesn’t skimp on the details, and covers both the cultural and legislative history of gun control since our founding.

    • Thanks for the tip. I’m doing this as part of a book project that I hope to someday publish and am space limited, but I will include a reference to Winkler’s book for further reading on the topic. That and I’ll grab a copy myself.

  14. 1934 NFA:

    This law was originally passed during the Depression, when heavily armed desperadoes roamed the nation, robbing banks and engaging in kidnap for ransom. The original intent of the National Firearms Act was to provide a method for locking up ex-cons that the government was unable to convict for breaking any other law. As Attorney General Homer Cummings described the purpose of the law, when testifying before Congress:

    Now, you say that it is easy for criminals to get weapons. I know it, but I want to make it easy to convict them when they have the weapons. That is the point of it. I do not expect criminals to comply with this law; I do not expect the underworld to be going around giving their fingerprints and getting permits to carry these weapons, but I want them to be in a position, when I find such a person, to convict him because he has not complied.

    During the same questioning, Cummings expressed his belief that, “I have no fear of the law-abiding citizen getting into trouble.” Rep. Fred Vinson of Kentucky, while agreeing with Cummings’ desire to have an additional tool for locking up gangsters, pointed out that many laws that sounded like good ideas when passed, were sometimes found “in the coolness and calmness of retrospect” to be somewhat different in their consequences.

  15. If I am not mistaken, the decision that the 2nd Amendment guaranteed an individual right in Heller was 9 – 0.

    • Sadly, no.

      From Wikipedia:

      “The Stevens dissent seems to rest on four main points of disagreement: that the Founders would have made the individual right aspect of the Second Amendment express if that was what was intended; that the “militia” preamble and exact phrase “to keep and bear arms” demands the conclusion that the Second Amendment touches on state militia service only; that many lower courts’ later “collective-right” reading of the Miller decision constitutes stare decisis, which may only be overturned at great peril; and that the Court has not considered gun-control laws (e.g., the National Firearms Act) unconstitutional. The dissent concludes, “The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons…. I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice.”

      Justice Stevens’ dissent was joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer.

      • “. . .“The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons…. I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice.”
        This reasoning is typical of liberal-us Progress-evil-us thinking.
        The reason for the 2nd Amendment is clearly to PREVENT the government from disregarding the individual natural, God-given, or inalienable right to bear arms (arms include firearms, ammunition, magazines, and other necessary accruements for their use).
        The Bill of Rights was intended (as stated in it’s Preamble) to reign in the very thought that no rational being setting up a government would deliberately restrict its power, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT THE WHOLE CONSITIUTION DOES. It restricts the powers of the federal government to 17 specific powers. Ginsburg, Stevens, et al simply do not understand this concept which leads me to believe they have not bothered to read the document.
        For an explanation of relationship of the two clauses in the 2nd Amendment, take the time to read:
        “The Unabridged Second Amendment” by J. Neil Schulman, (which explains the nuances of the language used in the 2nd Amendment).

        As for “Miller”; the Court did not decide on the constitutionality of the 1934 Act, only that a sawed-off shotgun did not qualify as a permitted weapon under the 2nd Amendment BECAUSE short-barreled shotguns were not in use at the time in the military and were thus not in “common” use (using the same logic, if Miller had been in possession of a full automatic machine gun, which was in “common” use in the military, the case would have gone the other way). IT DID NOT RULE ON THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE ACT ITSELF (which has never been challenged).
        I do wonder what the length of a “Blunderbuss” barrel was. A Blunderbuss was equivalent to a shotgun in the late 1700’s, and was in common use during the period). Maybe someone can enlighten me?

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