The National Firearms Act added a tax stamp and federal background check process for weapons that were deemed too dangerous for the public to have. If you wanted a machine gun, silencer, short barreled rifle or shotgun, destructive device, or any other weapon — including a pistol with a foregrip on it — you now had to pay $200 to get a tax stamp, file some paperwork, submit to a background check, and wait for the paperwork to come back.
At the time, $200 was a lot of money. A Thompson sub machine gun might sell for $19.99, but you would have to pay 10 times that to register the weapon itself. In today’s money, it’s almost $9,000. This act was passed with the intent of keeping these arbitrarily restricted weapons out of the hands of the law abiding citizens. These restrictions were very arbitrary and based on the fears of the time, largely blamed on Mafia attacks. They used sawed off shotguns, machine guns, and submachine guns in “pistol configurations” that had forward grips on them to “make them easier to spray from the hip.” Naturally, although mafia crimes using these weapons were statistically no worse than those using acceptable weapons like handguns and shotguns, these weapons were targeted and banned.
Another amendment passed later made it illegal to manufacture, possess, or transfer any machine gun. An exception was made for those legally registered on or before May 5, 1986. In just a few decades, the effects of this amendment have created outrageous artificial scarcity for the machine gun market. A Cobray pistol, which may sell for $400 in its semi automatic version, may reach as much as $5,000. If you’re looking for any “classic” automatic weapons like a Thompson, M16, or AK 47, you might be looking at paying $10,000 to $20,000 for it.
We know that these restrictions are unreasonable and only infringe on the rights of law abiding citizens. We know that a person using an automatic weapon will likely cause less damage because of low accuracy, high barrel heat, rapid ammo usage, and potential for jamming their weapon. We know that criminals will saw off their shotguns to conceal them no matter what the law says, and that suppressors are noise abatement tools that make shooting safer for everybody involved.
The facts support us. We know that there are 186,000 registered automatic weapons and that only two of them have been used in a crime since 1934. That’s one crime with a legal automatic weapon every 39 years. We know that this is also true for legally owned suppressors, short barreled rifles, and other registered NFA weapons. We use this in our arguments.
But maybe that argument can be used against us just as easily. Maybe someone can look at that and say “Wow, you’re right, this really cut down on crime rates from legal gun owners. Maybe we need to add semi automatic rifles and handguns to the same registry!” Most of us know that just wouldn’t work. We know that, in fact, that would just make these weapons unattainable to the law abiding citizens and cause more lives to be lost because they couldn’t defend themselves. I would be willing to bet, however, that legal gun uses in crimes would go down because of it. Illegal gun crime would soar as criminals continued using the weapons the average citizen wouldn’t be able to get, but legally owned firearms would be used in less crimes.
This is an important pitfall to recognize when arguing with those who oppose civilian gun ownership. It is very easy to look at the stats for the NFA and say ‘If this national registry and taxation worked to reduce the ‘epidemic of gun violence’, why wouldn’t it work to add semi automatic rifles and handguns? Why not all guns?”
What do you think? Does the NFA registry and its strikingly low crime rate present a good argument for gun control? What are some good counter arguments to this position?