Law 101: National Firearms Act of 1934
by David Higginbotham: Gear
Review: A Look Back at 2012
If we are going
to have any understanding of any potential
legislative changes that may be coming, we need know how things
stand now, and why firearms receive so much legislative attention.
So let’s go back a ways. All the way back to the 1930s.
mobsters and bootleggers received a fair amount of media scrutiny.
Running liquor was a (sometimes) profitable business, and some of
the parties involved armed themselves with revolvers, pistols, modified
shotguns and early machine guns (like the Thompson
Model 1927 A1).
There may have
been some rifles thrown in, too, but you can see where this is going.
When legislators decided to regulate firearms, they targeted the
favorites of organized crime. In 1934, Congress passed the National
Firearms Act (NFA). The law, modified slightly in 1968, had
some far reaching effects.
the NFA has been in place for almost 80 years, many people still
don’t understand it. To be slightly reductive, the NFA restricts
sales, ownership, use, and transport of short barreled rifles, short
barreled shotguns, machine guns, silencers
and suppressors, and “destructive devices.” The
emphasis seemed to focus on firepower (machine guns), concealable
weapons (short this, short that, silenced etc.), and things that
are generally deemed destructive.
Silencerco Saker on an AR-15
Just to make
things really cloudy, it provides one more category of banned items
that is commonly labeled “any other weapon.”
guns should be obvious to most Guns.com readers. Full
auto or burst fire. Because the magic of automatic fire happens
in the receiver of a firearm, the receiver has been designated
the “firearm” itself.
rifles (SBRs) a rifle with a buttstock and either
a rifled barrel under 16″ long or an overall length under
26″. If a rifle has a collapsible stock, the length is measured
with the stock extended.
barreled shotguns (SBSs) if a shotgun’s barrel
is under 18″, it is designated as an SBS. Likewise, if the
total length is under 26″ (even if the barrel is longer
than 18″) it is still considered an SBS. But it has to have
a buttstock to be considered a shotgun in this category. Otherwise
it is a smooth bore pistol.
anything that is portable and attaches to a firearm to disguise
Devices (DDs) this is a broad category that covers explosives,
missiles, and poison gases. It also covers anything really big,
like firearms with bores over .50 (except shotguns, which are
seen to have legitimate sporting uses).
Other Weapons (AOWs) this one can be confusing. The term
comes from language used to cover anything the legislators hadn’t
considered, or that might be developed in response to to NFA regulation.
The most common guns to be classified as AOWs are smooth bore
pistols (which are made without stocks, so they aren’t technically
“shotguns”), guns that are disguised as other things
(or hidden inside other objects), or handguns with forward grips.
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