National Firearms Act

From Academic Kids

US Firearms Legal Topics:
Assault weapons ban
Brady Handgun Act
BATFE (law enforcement)
Firearm case law
Gun Control Act of 1968
Gun politics in the US
Gun Control (in USA by state)
National Firearms Act
2nd Amendment
Straw purchase
Sullivan Act (New York)
Violent Crime Control Act

National Firearms Act is an American federal law passed in 1934 that mandates the registration of all Title II weapons - that is, all sound suppressors or 'silencers', all fully-automatic and burst-fire firearms, all rifles with a barrel length less than 16 inches (406 mm) (SBR) and shotguns with a barrel length less than 18 inches (457 mm) (SBS), shoulder fired weapons with an overall length less than 26 inches (660 mm), weapons classified as "Any Other Weapon" (AOW) and weapons classified as "destructive devices" (DD). For weapons with folding, collapsing or telescoping stocks, the overall length is measured with the stock fully extended.

All NFA items must be registered with the BATFE. Private owners wishing to purchase an NFA item must obtain permission from both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF) and the county sheriff or chief of police, pass an extensive background check to include submitting a photograph and finger prints, fully register the firearm, continually update the owner's address and location of the firearm, receive ATF written permission before moving the firearm across state lines, and pay a $200 transfer tax. This process takes approximately 6 months to complete. Additionaly, the firearm can never be handled or transported by any other private individual unless the firearm's registered owner is present.

Importation of NFA weapons was banned by the 1968 Gun Control Act which implemented a "sporting" clause. Only firearms judged to be sporting firearms by BATFE can be imported for civilian use. The manufacture of new machine guns for the civilian market was banned by the Gun Owners Protection Act of 1986. All machine guns legally registered prior to the date of enactment are still legal for transfer among civilians, in states that still permit them. The static and relatively low number of transferable automatic firearms has caused their price to be prohibitively expensive for most Americans; often over $10,000. Machine guns manufactured after that date can only be sold to law enforcement and government agencies or exported.

The law was found to be unconstitutional in State vs. Miller, though the ruling was overturned on appeal to the Supreme Court (United States v. Miller) as the defendant failed to appear, and no brief was filled on Miller's behalf. Miller was arrested for possession of an unregistered short barreled shotgun. Miller's defense was that the shotgun was legal under the Second Amendment. The government's argument was that the short barreled shotgun was not a military weapon and thus not a "militia" weapon protected by the Second Amendment. Since the defense was not present, the court ruled that there was no evidence presented to them that such a firearm was indeed "ordinary military equipment." This decision is questionable because short barreled shotguns were in fact used by American troops during the trench warfare of World War I, and after the Miller decision in World War II and the Vietnam War.

The NFA has been drastically curtailed in the 9th circuit by US v. Stewart in 2003, in which Stewart, who made a machine gun in his basement, was found not guilty of an NFA violation by the Appeals Court because home manufacture was deemed to fall outside the interstate commerce clause power of congress, which is the authority that the NFA, an excise tax bill, was enacted under. How this resolves at the national level remains to be seen.

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