Taking advantage of the media attention around the swearing-in of B. Todd Jones as the new director of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Obama administration announced two executive actions aimed at appeasing gun control groups and asserting executive authority. Ostensibly intended to “curb gun violence,” the measures are even more unlikely to have an impact on crime, suicide, or accidents than most of the proposals we see from the anti-rights crowd. The first proposal deals with the re-importation of U.S.-made, World War II era firearms – guns that have never been common in crime and are prized collectors’ items today. The second proposal deals with the application process for owning items regulated under the National Firearms Act or NFA. The NFA is the body of federal laws dealing with regulation of things like machine guns and silencers.
People can own NFA items, but there is a rigorous application process – including photos and fingerprints, extensive background check, a $200 tax and requirement for permission from their local “Chief Law Enforcement Officer” or CLEO. Unfortunately, in some jurisdictions the CLEOs refuse to sign NFA paperwork, effectively banning these items in their areas. There is also a problem when an NFA owner wants to let friends and family members shoot his guns or even man his booth at a gun show, because the law requires that the items always be under the direct control of the registered owner. This creates a particular problem when a registered owner dies unexpectedly; his family can be left as unintentional felons for possessing his NFA items.
A solution to these problems was found in the rules regarding corporate ownership of NFA items. The law provides for legal entities like corporations to own NFA items and authorize employees and members of the entity to possess them. Corporate ownership does not have the same level of stringent background checks, allows multiple, legal “possessors” and does not require CLEO approval. This has led to a cottage industry for lawyers setting up family NFA trusts, LLCs and small corporations for people wanting to own NFA items in a more flexible manner. Of course, anyone prohibited from possessing a firearm is still prohibited from possessing corporate or trust owned NFA items.
The growth of NFA trusts has been generating consternation among ATF regulators and the Obama administration. The supposed concern is that a “prohibited person,” such as a convicted felon, could feasibly create, or become a member of, an NFA trust or business and gain seemingly legal access to NFA firearms.
To remedy this, the administration is proposing that all members of an NFA trust or corporation submit forms, photos and fingerprints and have their background investigated. They also want to require a slightly modified certification from CLEOs on all trust and corporate applicants.
What this would do is create massive backlogs in a system that is already chronically overloaded and give CLEOs authority to deny all NFA activity in their jurisdictions.
This is a bad solution for a non-existent problem. If a prohibited person managed to establish membership in an NFA trust or corporation, that would put him, and all of the members, at risk of criminal prosecution and forfeiture of their expensive NFA items. Legal machine guns start at around $5,000 and go up to well over $100,000. Other popular items like suppressors typically cost between $500 and $1,000 each plus a $200 per-item tax stamp, and another $500 to $1,000 for creating the trust or corporation. With all of that on the line – and the fact that these types of items can be fabricated or acquired on the black market (though they rarely are), is it any surprise that there has never been a case of a member of a private NFA trust or company committing a violent crime using an NFA item?
The real reason ATF and the administration want to add these requirements to NFA applications is to add more expense, delay and frustration to the process in hopes of discouraging people from bothering with it. This proposal most assuredly won’t have any impact whatsoever on crime.
The proposal to block the repatriation of firearms that the U.S. sold or gave to our allies back in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s is another red herring. The most modern rifles affected by this proposal are the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine (photo above). Both were designed for use in World War II. The Garand was replaced by the M14 in 1957, while the M1 Carbine lingered in service in special applications all the way up to 1973. The Garand is 43.5″ long, weighs about 11 pounds, and we would pay to watch videos of typical “gangstas” trying to load and fire one. The carbine is handier at about 5.5 pounds and 36″, but its cartridge is considered rather anemic for a long gun with power comparable to a .357 Mag. pistol round.
Neither of these guns has ever been commonly used in crimes, and both are prized collectibles, particularly for veterans of World War II and Korea and their families.
Again, the objective of the administration’s action is not to reduce crime or “gun violence,” but rather to make owning guns more expensive, more difficult and more politically risky. Just as with the NFA rule changes, nothing in this proposal would have any impact on crime or violence.
Both of these proposals will be open for public comment soon, and we will keep you posted as to when that becomes available. In the meantime, we urge you to contact your elected servants in Washington and demand that they not allow this administration to get away with these assaults on our rights. Most regulatory proposals are approved regardless of the volume or sensibility of the comments generated. Congress has the authority to shut these proposals down cold, and they need to exercise that authority rather than allow Obama and his allies to kill the Second Amendment with these latest slices in their ongoing campaign of death by a thousand cuts.