Why 18" Barrels For Shotguns?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by The Janitor, Oct 27, 2008.

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  1. The Janitor

    The Janitor Member

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    Where did this regulation originate from?

    What was the rationale behind it?

    In your opinion, is it really necessary?

    Questions..Questions..
     
  2. JBURGII

    JBURGII Member

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    I have no idea what the actual reason is for the 18" limit.. I would venture to guess someone had a cow over a sawed off and someone else thought.. hmm yea thats bad, unless you send us $200 THEN its okay.. :D
     
  3. The Janitor

    The Janitor Member

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    That seems like a plausible answer. My view is that overall, the restriction is an inefective solution to a non-existant problem addressed towards people who don't follow the rules anyways.

    Criminals are likely going to get their weapons confiscated regardless if they are caught with them, legal or not. The only thing the restriction does is collect money from honest people, and turn hard-headed(most likely honest) people who don't want to pay the $200 into criminals.


    As a side note, a 12" bbl with a sidefolder would make a great little camping gun and maybe even a good HD piece.
     
  4. General Geoff

    General Geoff Member

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    Looking for logic in federal legislation is setting yourself up for failure.
     
  5. NukemJim

    NukemJim Member

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    My limited understanding is that the (extremely little) logic behind the length rules for rifles and shotguns was concealibility. As in the Feds did not want easily concealed weapons not under NFA. Remember originaly handguns were going to be NFA weapons as well and were only dropped from the NFA list at the last minute.

    As always I could be wrong.


    NukemJim
     
  6. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

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    There is no real "reason" other than a number pulled out of the air like NukeJim says.
     
  7. Matt-J2

    Matt-J2 Member

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    Also remember, that many laws are not in place to prevent anything from occurring, but so that there's something in place to provide for punishment should said thing occur, or to ensure someone gets some sort of punishment for crime even if it's not the crime you(collective) want to punish them for.

    Not saying it's right, as I don't think it is, but that seems to be the logic sometimes. Example: You're a DA. You KNOW Cletus is a bad fellow. He's killed old ladies, he's dealt drugs to kindergartners, and he beats up puppies. Only you can't quite prove it. He does have a 12" barrel on his shotgun though, so you can keep him off the streets for just a little while, so you nail him with it.
    I don't know if laws are really made for these reasons, but they sure are used in such a manner. Kinda like when they charge you with disturbing the peace and similar infractions because they can't charge you with openly carrying a firearm.
     
  8. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    Exactly. The NFA intended to ban handguns.
    Handguns then, just as now were the most widely used arm against other humans, in both crime and self defense. So they were a larger concern than the machineguns and other objects in the NFA. Arguably handguns were the primary thing the NFA was designed to ban, the other objects were just extras.

    For the same reason they also had the most opposition to being banned, as far more Americans owned handguns than submachineguns etc So the NFA might not have passed if it kept the handgun ban. The antis ever mindful to ban what they can, essentialy crossed out the handgun portion (figuratively) and passed the rest of the legislation.

    Handguns being illegal means very little if someone can just cut down a rifle or shotgun to similar dimensions.
    So limits on long arms were placed with the intent of keeping them from replacing the outlawed handguns.
    When handguns were removed from the NFA restrictions at the last minute, the portions of the legislation that were designed to compliment the handgun ban, remained.
    So limits on the length of rifles and shotguns became law, even though the intended purpose of that restriction no longer existed.

    So what resulted was not intended. The logic that existed at the time behind the size limitations no longer existed.
    Since then people have created new logic in an attempt to explain or justify the restrictions.

    Remember at the time the Congress (and the American people) did not believe they had police powers. They felt they had no authority to ban what they wanted. (That would later change in a future court interpretation on what was allowed under the interstate commerce clause.)
    They did however believe they had the power to tax anything they wanted. So they imposed harsh taxes to ban things. They did that with the NFA as well as other things they wanted banned. Take the Marihuana Tax stamp as another example in the 1930s.
    They put tax payment methods in place that most citizens would be unaware of. Violation of those taxes then allowed federal punishment.
    This was before the internet, and also in a time when things like registration were viewed as extremely unconstiutional by most.
    So a requirement to sign up to both pay what amounted to thousands of dollars today (in the middle of the depression), and be unconstitutionaly registered, with a process most did not know about was for all intents and purposes a ban.
    So it never was to collect $200, it was to ban possession by average citizens.
    That was just the only pretense they felt they had at the time.

    They could punish people severely for violation of a tax law, but they could not officialy ban things they wanted to ban. Remember even prohibition was done with a Constiutional Amendment, not simply passage of a law (like things are banned today.)
     
  9. JBURGII

    JBURGII Member

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    Mr. Zoogster,
    Sure, just come in and blow my little sarcastic post away with stuff like knowledge and facts.. geez.. :)
     
  10. SkunkApe

    SkunkApe Member

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    Excellent informative post, Zoogster.

    Thanks.
     
  11. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    But ya gotta wonder why they settled on 18" for smoothbore long guns and 16" for rifled long guns.....
     
  12. MatthewVanitas

    MatthewVanitas Member

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    I'm not finding a clear link with Google immediately, but didn't rifles used to be 18"?

    I seem to recall some story that it was 18", but then a bunch of a certain variant of M1 Carbines were sold off as post-WWII surplus that had <18" barrels, and rather than declare thousands of people felons for buying a product directly from the U.S. gov't, the ATF lowered the requirement to 16".

    Is that factual or just hearsay?
     
  13. 230RN
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    230RN Member

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    A 17.999999 inch shotgun barrel is obviously much more deadly than an 18.000001 inch shotgun barrel.

    Just as a 4.000001 inch knife is obviously.....

    And 1.0000001 oz establishes intent....

    I'm a mensuration nut....
     
  14. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    Zoogster is absolutely right. This was challenged by Miller, which made it to the Supreme Court, and was ultimately upheld, in an EX PARTE ruling, (The defendant actually died before the court ruled the case,)

    On March 30, 1939 the Supreme Court heard the case. Attorneys for the United States argued four points:

    1. The NFA is intended as a revenue-collecting measure and therefore within the authority of the Department of the Treasury.
    2. The defendants transported the shotgun from Oklahoma to Arkansas, and therefore used it in interstate commerce.
    3. The Second Amendment protects only the ownership of military-type weapons appropriate for use in an organized militia.
    4. The "double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches in length, bearing identification number 76230" was never used in any militia organization.

    Had Miller lived, and the case actually been argued in court, the ruling might have been very different. Solders BEFORE AND SINCE this ruling have used sawed-off shotguns in combat, if not that specific model.
     
  15. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    At one time the minimum barrel length was 18" across the board.

    I never heard the M1 carbine story, and rather doubt it. It was a good many years after WW II that carbines were sold surplus to American Commoners. And I have not heard of a shorter variant that could have come out in sufficient numbers.

    There ARE (were) some sub-18" imports, though. There were 1894 Swedish Mauser carbines with 17.7" barrels that had to have extension tubes permanently affixed to sell surplus here before the regulation was changed.

    The real deal 1903 Mannlicher Schoenauer 6.5mm full stock carbine also started out in Austria with a barrel shorter than 18" but they increased it to meet the then requirement for US sales and did not change back after the rifle minimum was reduced to 16".
     
  16. LAR-15

    LAR-15 Member

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    The original version of the NFA included banning any self loading guns with capacity over 12 rounds, concealable firearms INCLUDING pistols with rifled bores, shotguns with barrels of less than 16 inches.

    It did not include short barreled rifles. Those were added later in passage and pistols were exempted due to the uproar over including 1911s ect.

    The definition of machine gun was also changed by request/suggestion of the NRA

    In 1938 Congress lowered the barrel minimum to 16 inches for .22 caliber rifles.

    In 1960 Congress, at the urging of the NRA and gun importers, lowered the rifle minimum to 16 inches for all rifles. They also enacted the 26" inch overall length minimum to clarify the law

    Anything over the overall minimum could not be an 'any other weapon'

    http://www.nfaoa.org/resources.html
     
  17. MatthewVanitas

    MatthewVanitas Member

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    Thanks much for the specific date!

    Do you happen to know if there were specific models of rifle which caused the NRA to go to bat for 16"?
     
  18. Sunray

    Sunray Member

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    "...the rationale behind it?..." No firearms law is rational or logical. Up here, in Ontario, there are a bunch of municipalities/counties where hunting with a rifle chambered in any cartridge larger than .275 is illegal. Some of 'em say .270. And it goes by the name of the cartridge, not the calibre. So a .275 Weatherby Magnum is ok, but a .276 Pedersen, if you could find one, is not. Certainly not a .280 Remington.
    Rumour has it that it was designed to stop the use of surplus .303's after W.W. I.
    "...never was to collect $200..." When your NFA was enacted, in 1934, $200 was a great deal of money. Reportedly 5 months pay for the average working stiff. Collecting a tax had nothing to do with it. It was designed to keep FA, etc. firearms out of the hands of the average citizen. The NFA itself was an alleged anti-crime bill.
     
  19. SwordRapier

    SwordRapier Member

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    District of Columbia V Keller is very interesting as related to this topic. It also addresses the issue of the United States v Miller. The case that the 18-inch ban was upheld in the court. It addresses why it was upheld at that time.

    According to the official decision of the court published on the Supreme Court web page, http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf, “The Second amendment protects and individuals right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in the militia and to use such firearm in traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense within the home.”

    This court decision established the second amendment as and individual right not connected to service to the militia.

    There was a post on this thread that has suggested that the second amendment only applies to weapons used in the militia. That has been the traditional argument of those who support gun control laws. DC v Keller removed the legal basis for that argument. In fact the Courts minority opinion makes that argument.

    This case is important in the history of the United States because it the the first time the Court has defined what the Amendment means and who it is applied to.
     
  20. Sunray

    Sunray Member

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    "...second amendment as an individual right..." Yep, but it did nothing to stop the ATF from making law by regulation.
     
  21. saltydog

    saltydog Member

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    Exactly. :(
     
  22. koginam

    koginam Member

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    18 inch came about because that was the length of military shotgun barrels which were sold in large numbers after WW1 by the government, also many police and correctional institutions acquired them from the military so it was a common length the feds were familiar with.
     
  23. RNDMEVIL

    RNDMEVIL Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong here but I think that short barreled shotguns are classified as AOW. The tax stamp for AOW transfer is $5 not $200. The tax stamp for AOW manufacture is $200. Have they changed this recently?
     
  24. Zoogster

    Zoogster Member

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    Short barreled shotguns sold as pistols with only a pistol grip on them from the factory are classified as AOWs.
    They cannot legaly have a stock attached to them or they become a SBS (short barreled shotgun.)
    A SBS can be setup pretty much how the owner wishes. So there is more freedom with a SBS than an AOW in that regard.
    A SBS however requires notification and paperwork anytime someone crosses state lines with it.
    So "freedom" I guess depends on the context.

    Honestly a short barreled pistol grip only shotgun as an AOW is legaly interesting. Any firearm over .50 can be declared a destructive device at will due to the "sporting clause".
    So all shotguns (over .50) are only legal at the discretion of the ATF if they feel they have a sporting purpose.
    If they declare they have no sporting purpose they become a "Destructive Device".


    Short barreled rifles and shotguns are specificly addessed in the NFA seperately from "Any Other Weapons".
    "Any Other Weapon" was meant to cover exactly that: Any other weapon besides a pistol, rifle, shotgun, machinegun, or destructive device, as defined by the NFA.
    The NFA defines a rifle and shotgun as something fired from the shoulder.
    So a pistol grip only "shotgun" never designed or intended to be fired from the shoulder is not a shotgun as defined by the NFA. Therefore it does not have the same restrictions on barrel length.

    AOW was the catch all in case they missed something they wanted restricted or banned.
     
  25. HB

    HB Member

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    Duh, 18'' barrels spread so much each time you fire it, the pellets fly everywhere and hit police and neighborhood children and kittens :rolleyes:

    I assume it's about conceal-a-bility, which is stupid like many if not all firearm laws.

    HB
     
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