With the current political climate, many responsible and legal gun-owners have a right to hold their NFA firearms near and dear, should any circumstance arise in which you will need to defend yourself from the terror caused by any threat, foreign or domestic. Still others enjoy the right to use and obtain certain NFA firearms and firearm accessories to ensure the best hunting equipment self-protection features.
Whatever your reason for obtaining an NFA weapon may be, you need to understand that the NFA is meant to ensure safety through a strict governance process. As such, there have been many attempts to repeal the NFA through the years. Some of these attempts have even been successful (to some extent), as gun legislation gets more and more complicated for each generation of gun users.
Gun policy in the United States of America has been revised and adapted throughout the 20th century and beyond, and with each attempt to repeal the NFA, there have been laws and statutes that have increased the nuances and stipulations of said legislation.
The government has mandated strict laws and regulations about guns since the early 1900s, and arguably all the way back to the construction of the American constitution. In the early 1930s gangland violence wreaked havoc on an early America, particularly the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 which prompted the former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration to enact the National Firearms Act (NFA).
Since the creation of the NFA, there have been many attempts to repeal the NFA and certain factions pertaining to the original decree known as the National Firearms Act. Today, we will be discussing the 6 major historical attempts to repeal the NFA and certain NFA factions.
Origins of the NFA
Before we dive into the historical attempts to repeal the NFA, let us look at a certain section of the brief history of creating the nationally accredited act. In the 1920s and 1930s, gangland violence ran rampant.
Infamous gangster stars from the Great Depression-era such as Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde showed a darker side to American values, and many Congress members were being pushed by the public to regulate guns and take them out of the hands of gang members.
This was the first time in the 20th century that this problem has ever occurred, as the weapons industry was booming with new innovations from the industrial age from WWI. Automatic machine guns were starting to circulate in America and land in the hands of mobsters and gangsters.
Congress passed the National Firearms Act in response to such violence which imposed a tax on certain gun transactions such as manufacturing firearms and selling and transporting weapons such as short-barrel shotguns, machine guns, and silencers.
This tax was a $200 fee, which was comparable to over $3,000 in today’s cash when you consider inflation. That $200 fee has not changed since, and thanks to inflation, it has made transfers and the registration for guns much more accessible than back then.
Attempts to Repeal the NFA
Since its inception, there have been numerous attempts to repeal the NFA. When the act was first conceived, it was somewhat controversial and wrapped into FDR’s “war on guns.” There have also been many attempts to further legislate the restriction of certain semi-automatic assault rifles. Let’s take a look at some of these attempts now.
1. The United States Vs. Miller Case
On March 30, 1939, the Supreme Court indicted Jack Miller and Frank Layton for transporting a shotgun that was shorter than 18 inches without the correct documentation or tax stamp.
The Supreme Court claimed the situation on the policeman’s behalf was “…not unconstitutional as an invasion of the reserved powers of the States…The conclusion was in the favor of the NFA.”
The Supreme Court was able to represent the NFA in this case, thwarting those who wanted to repeal the NFA. This case was a win for the NFA and the factions that were currently in place because of the act.
Miller was trying to repeal the NFA laws that would penalize him for carrying an undocumented shotgun. There was a significant outrage in the newspapers about this case, and with gangland violence on the rise, controversial opinions split the country in half on the matter.
Many people claimed that there should be more restrictions on firearms, and there should be more control as to who can purchase such a lethal weapon. Some claimed that if the government attempts to take away certain weapons, it will leave you defenseless to certain attacks, domestic and foreign.
Many people claimed that we needed to repeal the NFA because Miller may have been involved in a properly sanctioned militia and could constitutionally own the weapon. There is still a right to properly run a militia in the United States of America, and it could be argued that Miller was acting upon a constitutional right to obtain certain special firearms for that militia.
In the end, the court made a decision in the favor of the NFA with a statement that was very controversial at the time, stating that it was not unconstitutional for a person to own a modified shotgun such as Miller’s as it has some benefits in the preservation of the efficiency of a well-regulated militia.
This was one of the early attempts to repeal the NFA.
2. The Gun Control Act of 1968
The world was shocked when John F. Kennedy, the 34th President of the United States of America, and many civilians around the country protested gun control laws.
It was the horrific incident of an assassination that sparked a generation that wanted to repeal the NFA. The Gun Control Act of 1968 ruled that there would be certain prohibited persons, it required certain people to apply for a Federal Firearms License. They were able to review the law instead of submitting to the request to repeal the NFA.
Some of the newly prohibited persons include those who are currently under an indictment or convicted of a crime that would garner more than one year of jail time, is a fugitive of justice, is an unlawful user of any uncontrolled illegal substances, or have been adjudicated as mentally unfit to legally own a firearm.
Many people were now restricted under this legislation to own a firearm of any kind, and felonies last the convicted person’s whole lifetime, and it is on their criminal record forever. You also will not be able to apply if you are not an official citizen of the United States, and there can be stipulations if you have a restraining order with a partner or roommate.
Applying for a gun was not made to be easy, and the cost was supposed to deter people from making irrational situations. This was another time in history when people were not able to repeal the NFA.
3. The Firearm Owners Protection Act
In February 1982, a Republican-ruled Senate concluded that the second amendment clearly stated that every law-abiding citizen should have a right to peacefully own a weapon. A Republican-led Senate subcommittee dedicated to interpreting the constitution stated that “…what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.”
It claimed that the right to peacefully own a gun was constitutional, and a lot of this was enacted to hold people back from taking actions that would repeal the NFA.
This is one of the more recent times in modern history that protest groups have tried to repeal the NFA. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) gained a bigger part in the process of monitoring regulation files, instead of sufficing to make efforts to repeal the NFA.
The court also brought up that 75 incidents of ATF prosecutions were dismissed because they were brought upon people who were law-abiding citizens who had no criminal intent whatsoever.
One of the most controversial parts of this act was that it banned civilians from obtaining fully-automated machine guns, and the only people who could register for machine guns made after 1986 are government or police agents and factions.
Any individual civilian who wanted to buy a machine gun had to pick from the limited supply of machine guns made before 1986, and the law is still the same today. You also need to file extensive paperwork for a machine gun and submit to a lengthy process that involves being investigated by the FBI, sending official copies of identification, and many other special requirements.
This was a compromise made so that people could stop liberal-leaning senate members from voting to repeal the NFA.
4. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993
The next modern legislative era was brought about and named after White House press secretary, James Brady, who was permanently injured when attempting to protect the then-current President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan.
This politically charged event shocked America, and it made government officials everywhere pay attention to gun control laws.
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which was signed under the Bill Clinton Presidential administration, amended the GCA that was enacted almost 30 years prior.
This law stated that for an individual citizen of the United States of America to buy a firearm or firearm accessories, they will need to first receive an extensive background check. From this law, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was created, and this organization has since been maintained by the FBI.
This was a series of compromises that established merit with the country two-fold, for it made sure that only law-abiding citizens will be able to obtain a firearm, while also fighting off the urge to repeal the NFA.
As you can see so far, gun legislation only gets more and more restrictive for citizens, and as more people have protested and pushed to repeal the NFA, the government has done a good job of making compromises for all American people.
5. The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act
There was pressure yet again on the government from the people to further legislate gun policy in the late 80s and early 90s. Horrific school shootings such as the Cleveland Elementary School shooting, in which 34 children were shot, and 5 were killed with a semi-automatic Kalashnikov pattern rifle.
There was another tragic incident in Killen, TX where a man drove his pickup truck into a Luby’s diner and quickly shot and killed 23 people.
Another mass shooting incident occurred in 1993 on the streets of California, where a gunman shot and killed eight people with a modified gun using hellfire triggers, which helped the shooter fire the weapon as quickly as a fully automatic machine gun weapon.
At this politically tense time in history, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll found 77 percent of Americans were in favor to ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of semi-automatic assault rifles.
With the public favor at an all-time high to repeal the NFA, legislators created the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act as a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
Legislators were bargaining for more than they got, but they did pass legislation that restricted the buying and possession of assault weapons with certain features and gun accessories, such as pistol grips, grenade launchers, and a bayonet mount that were sold included with the weapon.
They also banned any semi-automatic assault rifle, semi-automatic pistols, and semi-automatic shotguns that could receive external detachable ammunition clips. They limited the number of modifications that you could have for each of these types of semi-automatic weapons to only two.
The ban also affected weapons that were nicknamed “copy-cat” weapons including AR-15s, TEC-9s, and MAC-10s, and restricted the manufacturing and selling of such weapons.
The ban did have a sunset clause though, which stated that the ban would only take place for a certain period after which it will no longer be in effect unless otherwise legislated. In 2004, the ban was lifted, and the controversy to repeal the NFA began again.
A study in 2014 stated that the ban had no real correlational effect on the amount of homicidal crime that was perpetrated by such weapons. Throughout history, attempts to repeal the NFA are all just a smokescreen to the real problem, loopholes.
The people who did actually commit felony crimes with such semi-automatic weapons all had one thing in common, they all obtained such weapons illegally, or through a loophole in the complicated legislation.
Creating legislature and then enforcing it always carries about a few loopholes that people are bound to discover in an attempt to rig the system and turn the favor towards them.
6. The Tiahrt Amendment
The next historical attempt to repeal the NFA was a year before the sunset clause on the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act that took effect 9 years prior. The amendment was named after Todd Tiahrt, who first proposed the bill, and the bill was signed on February 20th, 2003.
The bill’s provisions included banning the ATF from forcing gun dealers to make inspections of their inventory, and it also stated that the FBI could not hold on to background check information for longer than 24 hours. After the FBI checks your background information, they must destroy the file.
This means that the FBI cannot use that file to investigate you further down the line and restrict certain access to information regarding the law-abiding citizens of the United States of America.
In 2004, the Tiahrt Amendment was expanded to include further restrictions for government officials. It expanded the power to limit government officials access to gun tracing and banned such information from appearing in civil lawsuits, or firearms license revocations.
The Washington Post also claimed that the Tiahrt Amendment in 2010, “… also keeps the spotlight off the relationship between rogue gun dealers and the black market in firearms.”
There have since been many attempts to repeal this amendment, but all of the repeal attempts have failed thus far.
As you can see, there have been many historical attempts to repeal the NFA and certain factions that were included under the laws that have since come from the establishment of the NFA.
The government has laid out restriction after restriction, clause after clause, and most of the legislation proposed in this article still remains the law today, such as the $200 transfer fee for all gun tax transitions.
Our tax stamps for our guns and the policy that surrounds having your weapons properly papered have changed since the turn of the 20th century, and there will be more legislation to come.
The Presidential administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Raegan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have contributed to the gun legislation that was a part of the negotiation to repeal certain factions of the NFA.Now that you have educated yourself on the history of the NFA, you should check out more information that is available to you on our website. If you are interested in any more information on the NFA or NFA related products and industry standards, read our blog. It has tons of articles related to the National Firearms Act. As always, stay safe, and defend your rights as an American citizen.