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Lead up to the passing of the NFA

Discussion in 'NFA Firearms and Accessories' started by Gato Montés, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. Gato Montés

    Gato Montés Well-Known Member

    Hey guys.

    I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of some resources pertaining to the passing of the NFA in 1934. You know, who proposed it, people who argued for and against it and what those arguments were. I understand it as a bill that was designed to restrict so called "gangster weapons" from common acquisition, but beyond that basic premise I have little else.

    Specifically I'm interested in how silencers got included in the bill. Since the NFA was designed to limit "gangster weapons" I had always assumed there was some clandestine use of silencers by the criminal element, only to find out through small snippets that in actuality it was out of fear of mass poaching during the Great Depression. THAT is something I'd love to get more insight on.
  2. kimbershot

    kimbershot Well-Known Member

    best reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act

    did read a book several yrs ago re the players. essentially--factions in gov. wanted to ban all guns. 2nd amendment came into play. powers that be negotiated how certain weapons would be dealt with--hence placating both sides of the issue. back in 1934--$200.00 was much $$. today--not so much--but just a pita.:barf:
  3. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Well-Known Member

    Yep, suppressors were included because of fears of poaching during the great depression. Besides the wiki page, I would suggest talking with some people on NFA specific web forums. NFA Talk is one of the forums I frequent and they have quite a few people who are very knowledgeable about both regulations and the history.

    Another thing I've always thought was interesting was that originally handguns were included in the NFA, and thus SBRs and SBSs were added so that people couldn't just buy rifles and cut them down to create handguns. But women protested that they wouldn't be able to protect themselves if handguns were essentially banned, so handguns were removed from the NFA but strangely enough the SBRs and SBSs were left in.
  4. Gato Montés

    Gato Montés Well-Known Member

    Forgot about NFATalk, have to check them out.

    I've read the Wiki page, but unfortunately I didn't see anything related to the concerns of poaching with use of a suppressor. That whole thing boggles my mind, as if the man who is hurting enough to break the law and poach to feed his family has the spare change to purchase a suppressor (and have barrels threaded) in the first place.
  5. Encoreman

    Encoreman Well-Known Member

    I'm really surprised they haven't raised the fee to $2,000 to keep up with inflation.
  6. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Well-Known Member

    The $200 fee is written in the statute, a statute which hasn't seen major revision in almost 50 years. I doubt there are many legislators who care enough about it to bring up the tax and why it needs to be raised, and that's if they even know it exists.

    Then in their next election, they would have to explain why they introduced legislation to increase taxes ten fold. That would be a very hard thing for a politician to do with very little return on his investment.
  7. soloban

    soloban Well-Known Member

    I heard suppressors were included because folks were shooting farmers cows and the farmer had no chance to run after em with the old double barreled side by side.
  8. Gato Montés

    Gato Montés Well-Known Member

    Have a link to a primary source? It's accounts like this that I'm after.
  9. Charger442

    Charger442 Well-Known Member

    if it were revised for inflation, today the tax would be $3,425.
  10. Prince Yamato

    Prince Yamato Well-Known Member

    You can find it referenced in the original movie "Scarface" from the 1930s. The politicians in the movie kept talking about the need to stop the interstate transport of machine guns.
  11. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    The purported concern was with "gangster weapons" but as usual, that was a smokescreen. Homer Cummings, FDR's first Attorney General, hated guns and those who owned them for any purpose. In FDR's first term, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago gave him the excuse he was waiting for, and legislation was immediately sent to Congress.

    The rationale was that all guns either had or would at some time move in interstate commerce and that the government could use its authority in that area plus its taxing authority to control the gun traffic.

    The administration bill, backed by FDR, imposed federal registration and transfer taxes on guns and ammunition and also required licensing of firearms dealers who would also have to pay a license fee (another tax). For a full understanding, remember that in 1934, a new Ford sedan cost $400.

    IIRC, the tax on a machinegun was to be $5000, a handgun $1000, a rifle $500, a repeating shotgun $200 and a single or double shotgun $100. Ammunition was taxed at $10 each for a handgun cartridge, $5 for a rifle cartridge, $1 for a shotgun shell, and $.50 for a .22 cartridge.

    After the bill got through Congress, it required registration and a transfer tax, but only for machineguns and weapons considered "sneaky" and "un-American", like disguised guns and silencers (suppressors as folks insist on calling them now), and the requirement for dealers in those things to be licensed.

    That bill, the National Firearms Act, passed in 1934. The administration claimed that its great gun control law had ended the gangster era. In fact, another administration action, initiating repeal of Prohibition did that; the NFA had little to do with it.

    In 1938, re-elected to a second term, FDR went back for another bite of the gun control apple, proposing the Federal Firearms Act. This time, he again used the interstate commerce clause and taxation to propose control over those guns that Congress had refused to include in the NFA. No tax was to be imposed on those guns (rifles, shotguns, and ordinary handguns) and the registration proposal went nowhere, but the licensed dealer system was expanded to cover all firearms, with separate categories for NFA firearms and FFA firearms. That meant two different sets of definitions and different legislative language, something that Congress tried to resolve, with only partial success, when the two laws were combined (as Title 1 (FFA) and Title II (NFA) in the Gun Control Act of 1968.

    Note the idea of using the federal taxation authority as a means of control, something that would be done repeatedly thereafter, and the basis for all the volumes of federal licensing laws on the books today. Also note that the FDR administration, like the Obama administration, drew up the legislation first, and then waited for a convenient time to introduce it "in response to the tragedy."

    One small point. As part of the administration propaganda for the FFA, FDR, whose legs were totally paralyzed, thought he condition was kept a secret from the American people, had himself taken to the Marine rifle range at Quantico, and laid on a mat. While the fawning press corps took pictures, he pretended to fire a National Match rifle, then flashed his famous smile. This, of course, was done to convince hunters and gun owners that FDR was their friend and was not out to ban guns. (They mostly forgot about those proposed taxes on rifles and ammunition four years earlier - never underestimate the stupidity of the American voter!)

    If all this sounds very familiar, it is. Just a different president wanting to disarm the American people so he can ignore the Constitution and impose his rule.

    Last edited: Feb 4, 2013
  12. Gato Montés

    Gato Montés Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the lengthy write up Jim. I wish that others understood the relationship of criminal activity and prohibition on consumable commodities.

    I found in my research an interesting study about the actual use of silencers in crime and if restrictive measures against them are/were even warranted.


    Besides summing up that the connection between organized crime and silencer use is a myth, he talks a great deal about the lack of any substance regarding evidence for restrictions when the major measures of 34, 68 and 86 were passed; summing up why I can't find anything myself.
  13. unspellable

    unspellable Well-Known Member


    I heard somewhere that iot was actually mopre the Red scare than crime that was a motivation.

    I did run across an explanation of why smooth bored handguns (not sawed off shotguns) were included. Prior to all this a 10% tax was imposed on fiearms to fund conservation efforts. The makers of the marble game getter, in spite of the name, argued that their toy was an agriculteral implement for pest control and not a sporting arm and thus got an exemption from the tax. Later, with the NFA, the Gsme Getter was not a "regular firearm" and so fell under "other firearms". Thus the smooth bored handgun fell under NFA more or less by histroical accident rather than for any real reason.
  14. Eat Beef

    Eat Beef Well-Known Member

    One must also take into account the social upheaval of the Great Depression. There were masses of unemployed people everywhere. Unions were coming of age, etc.

    I mob of angry men with pitchforks and torches is a problem. A mob of angry men with Thompsons and BARs is an army.

    Hence FDR's despicable actions.
  15. gfanikf

    gfanikf Well-Known Member

    I doubt that. Let's be honest Thompson's and BARs sold horribly to the civilian market (Colt Monitor and Thompson).

    You could always loot the National Guard Depot (like many criminals did), which would be far more likely how a group like you describe would have armed themselves.
  16. razorback2003

    razorback2003 Well-Known Member

    I don't believe the NFA was really enforced on common people for a long long time. People brought back machine guns from WW2 and it was accepted as ok even though it was illegal.

    Was the penalty when this law started in the 30's a felony like it is today for just violating NFA? And were normal people put in prison over this?

    I'm curious when this was actually enforced on otherwise honest people.
  17. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    It was certainly enforced, though federal law enforcement was still in its infancy at that time. The FBI used gun control as part of the reason for its existence. The bandits of that era were used to prop up funding for the otherwise pointless post-Prohibition agency. For most of our history there really was no such thing as general federal criminal law. There were just some Marshals working for various federal judges and serving writs. Like you see in "True Grit," they only existed as de facto law enforcement in certain federal territories. Otherwise other than the revenue cutters and agents collecting tariffs there wasn't any federal enforcement presence. The feds had to justify their growth by creating more things to arrest people for. Gun control was one of these tactics, as was the war on drugs.


    And we came within a hair's breadth of losing handguns. The situation was far worse then than it is now. Far, far worse. FDR was a demigod to a lot Americans in a way Obama only wishes he could be. Ignorant hillbillies used to have his portrait up on the wall. Not to mention the fact that most of the states that now have shall-issue laws actively forbade the carrying of concealed handguns. Concealed handguns were seen as something criminal, deceptive. That view has only changed in our lifetimes.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2013
  18. Gato Montés

    Gato Montés Well-Known Member

    There, fixed it for ya!

    I don't know if this is exclusive to the common American, but the atrocious lack of any kind of historical insight has lead to the same damn ridiculous garbage over and over and over again.

    Prohibition -> Gangsters -> NFA

    "Drug" Prohibition -> Gang(Bangers) -> More Gun Control
  19. Eat Beef

    Eat Beef Well-Known Member

  20. Eat Beef

    Eat Beef Well-Known Member

    I doubt that. Let's be honest Thompson's and BARs sold horribly to the civilian market (Colt Monitor and Thompson).

    You could always loot the National Guard Depot (like many criminals did), which would be far more likely how a group like you describe would have armed themselves.

    Doubt it all you like. I don't have the book at hand anymore, but this was one of the reasons stated. You post as if "our leaders" think or act logically. Tyrants fear those who they oppress.

    Looting an Armory is a lot harder for folks without access to weaponry.

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