If a publication’s name is Time, one would think the editors might actually know its timelines. This is especially true when they become a platform for unverified, unchecked and outright misinformation about firearms regulation.
Time.com recently provided a video platform on their website to Igor Volsky, a vocal gun control advocate who is drumming up attention for his new gun control book. In his nearly three-minute video, he chides gun rights groups for being too successful at, well, explaining the truth in simple terms. He offers to his fellow gun control advocates that they should adopt the same tactic.
Except he fails right out of the gate. And Time let him do it.
Patriotic = Abandoned Liberty?
Volsky claims that “Being a patriotic American means raising the standard for how firearms are produced and purchased. The firearms industry must be regulated. And people who choose to own a firearm should prove to their neighbors and their communities that they could own one responsibly.”
That’s a whole lot to unpack. Setting aside his obvious gut-punch to the patriotism of more than 300,000 people in the firearms industry and 100 million gun owners who choose to self-identify, Volsky is just flat out wrong to state as a matter-of-fact that the firearms industry must be regulated. In fact, there’s an entire federal agency that does this, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. If that’s too much, Volsky can just remember three letters – ATF.
Some estimates put as many as 20,000 laws and regulations on the books regarding the firearms industry. Critics argue there are just 300 relevant ones, which begs the question, why have non-relevant laws? There are enough that the ATF published the 33rd Edition of State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms. For Volsky’s benefit, here’s a quick list of just the major federal regulations governing the firearms industry.
Just the Big Ones
- 1791 Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights is ratified, including the Second Amendment, which reads, “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.”
- 1934 National Firearms Act, enacted as a tax on manufacturing selling and transporting firearms, but it also ushered in regulations on short-barreled shotguns, suppressors and automatic firearms. It was passed as a measure to curb gang crime.
- 1938 Federal Firearms Act required firearms manufacturers, importers and dealers to obtain a federal firearms license, and retailers to maintain sales records. It also prohibited sales to convicted felons.
- 1939 U.S. Supreme Court rules on United States v Miller, Congress can regulated short-barreled shotguns, stating the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to keep one as it has no relationship to the maintenance or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.
- 1968 Gun Control Act repealed and replaced the 1938 FFA, imposed “stricter licensing and regulation on the firearms industry,” requires serial numbers on all manufactured and imported firearms, expanded the definition of “machine gun” and added language to “destructive devices.” This Act added the “no sporting purpose” ban to firearms imports, enacted age restrictions for handguns to adults over 21 and prohibits the sale of firearms to felons and mentally ill.
- 1986 Law Enforcement Officers’ Protection Act banned the manufacture, importation, sale and possession of armor-piercing ammunition.
- 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act, redefines “silencer” to include the parts comprising a suppressor, prohibits a national firearms registry, limits ATF inspections to once annually (with exceptions for infractions) and redefines “engaged in the business” for firearms. The Hughes Amendment, as part of this law, prohibits the civilian ownership or transfer of automatic firearms made after May 19, 1986.
- 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, named for James A. Brady, the White House press secretary wounded in the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan, amended the 1968 GCA, requiring a background check be conducted by federally licensed firearms dealers and establishes the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which was launched in 1998.
- 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, included the Assault Weapons Ban and standard capacity magazine restrictions that were in place for 10 years and showed no effect on crime reduction. Multiple attempts have been made to reenact this provision.
- 1998 Undetectable Firearms Act, a ban on the manufacture, possession and transfer of firearms not detectable by a walk-through metal detector and with less than 3.7 oz (105 g) of metal content. This law has been reauthorized three times since its enactment.
- 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, strongly supported by NSSF, President George W. Bush signed this law “to prohibit causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.”
- 2007 NICS Improvement Act, supported by NSSF, included a requirement of federal departments to submit disqualifying mental health records to the FBI’s NICS database and provided resources for states to do the same.
- 2008 U.S. Supreme Court rules on District of Columbia v. Heller, recognizing the Second Amendment protects an “individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia” and struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban and home storage requirements.
- 2018 Fix NICS Act, following the tragic murders in Texas, in which it was discovered the Department of Defense failed to submit disqualifying background records on a prohibited individual. This law required federal agencies to comply and provided incentives to states to submit all their disqualifying records to the FBI.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.