American politicians continue to push gun control in new forms. Unlike the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, these new types of restrictions don’t attack the Second Amendment by simply banning guns. They do so in more subtle, more effective ways.
Some states now require background checks just to purchase ammunition. Other states have banned certain gun-making kits and they’ve severely restricted the legal right to build a firearm at home. Some politicians have taken off the white gloves entirely. Sen. Cory Booker has said Americans should be ‘ thrown in jail‘ if they don’t give up their guns. This is a man running for President in 2020.
Gun control is taking a new form in America — or is it? Today, we’re looking at how politicians have continued to steadily chip away at the Second Amendment since the first major piece of gun control was passed nearly a century ago. We’ll expose the tactics that have been quietly used to kill gun rights since the 1930’s, and how those tactics are working for anti-gun advocates today.
The Real Purpose of Gun Control
The purpose of gun control is not to instill greater safety for the American public. It is not to reduce gun violence. The purpose of these bills is to restrict Americans’ Second Amendment rights to such a degree that they effectively have no rights left to exercise. We don’t need to look far back into history to see direct evidence of this. We don’t even need to look at some other disarmed country.
We can look at the National Firearms Act of 1934.
Using crime as an excuse for gun control
Politicians often make emotional pleas for passing new gun control, by citing violence or a recent tragedy as justification. Except most often, the proposed gun control would have done nothing to prevent violence or tragedy in the first place.
Remember the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994? It was passed because of a mass shooting 1989. It was also allowed to expire 10 years later because it simply didn’t work. Americans had their 2A rights severely restricted and popular guns were temporarily banned. Crime rates rose, and gun violence continued regardless. But passing useless gun control by invoking tragedy has long been used to stifle the Second Amendment. This same political tactic was used over 80 years ago to severely restrict the ownership of suppressors, back when the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) was first passed.
Gangsters, Tommy guns, and false pretenses
Prior to 1934, gangs and organized crime syndicates purchased Thompson Submachine Guns to carry out turf wars, kill rival gangs, and run booze during Prohibition. Famous gangsters like Al Capone used automatic weapons on the streets of Chicago. John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde used them to rob banks. In response, President Roosevelt’s Attorney General introduced the NFA, urging its immediate passage in the wake of gang violence. This bill claimed to get submachine guns and other weapons off the streets, putting a stop to gang wars and organized crime. In reality, the NFA did nothing to stop or reduce gang violence.
It did, however, severely restrict Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
The National Firearms Act placed all sorts of restrictions on firearms and accessories, not just the Thompson Submachine Gun. This new legislation targeted shotguns, short-barreled rifles, even suppressors. The NFA made it incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to purchase a Tommy gun. The rifles and automatic weapons in this photo were used in the Valentine’s Day Massacre. They were seized by law enforcement in late 1929. The passage of the NFA in 1934 did not reduce criminals’ access to these weapons. So why didn’t the NFA stop all these killings and gang violence? Because making existing criminals “even more criminal” with new laws will not stop them from being criminals in the first place.
And really, why would it?
Dillinger, Capone, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, they were all being actively hunted by law enforcement with shoot-to-kill orders. Dillinger stole his Thompson SMG from a police station. Barrow stole his Browning Automatic Rifle from a National Guard Armory. But because these names were in the papers grabbing headlines, gun control just had to be passed. As quickly as possible. And the result was a train wreck of judicial ignorance. Politicians made laws that hurt the Second Amendment yet did nothing to stop criminals.
Sound familiar? (Hint: See “assault weapons ban”)
Suppressors are wonderful tools for any shooter or hunter. They reduce the sound of gunfire just enough to help reduce hearing damage (hearing protection is usually still required). They also reduce recoil and muzzle blast, making them perfect for public ranges. They’re even legal in many European countries today, where many firearms are banned from ownership. Yet the NFA severely restricted suppressors in 1934, making them nearly impossible to legally buy and own. And those same restrictions remain, unchallenged for nearly a century. If you want to buy a suppressor in 2019, you need to submit to an extensive background check, have fingerprints and photos taken, notify your local chief law enforcement officer, deal with the ATF, and have your name and suppressor added to a gun registry. You also need to pay the government $200 for a tax stamp, because they said so.
Because the goal of all gun control is disarmament.
During the passing of the NFA, there never was any justification for including suppressors on the list of “regulated” firearms. The only time suppressors were brought up in discussion was when legislators actually read the part of the bill that banned suppressors.
So, we have a giant federal gun control bill that is severely restricting a firearm component with no justification or written reasoning. The Justice Department never mentioned how suppressors were used in crimes. It was simply assumed they should be lumped in with submachine guns and short-barrled rifles, to be regulated like everything else.
The tax stamp is a physical seal, created by the NFA in 1934. And the $200 cost? In 1934, that was equivalent to $3,870. And it didn’t just apply to suppressors. Early versions of the NFA called for requiring the $200 tax on any gun that wasn’t a long-barreled rifle or shotgun. That meant shelling out insane amounts of money just to buy a simple handgun.
Attorney General Cummings even admitted, when pressed, that an outright ban would be unconstitutional, but taxes and regulations were not. The U.S. government — which went to war in 1776 over taxation and tyranny — openly admitted trying to circumvent the Constitution and the Second Amendment through taxation.
Think about that for a second.
And why did the Government choose $200 as the magic number? Because that’s how much the Thompson SMG cost. The government simply took the most expensive firearm someone could buy at the time, and decided that its purchase price was an appropriate dollar amount for taxing Americans’ access to the Second Amendment.
Ironically, the Thompson was the least-sold firearm at the time. Only crime bosses like Capone could afford to pay exorbitant amounts of money for automatic weapons. Thompsons were still on the streets, only now they were primarily owned by criminals who had the cash to purchase in the first place. Regular Americans, on the other hand, couldn’t afford to pay the equivalent cost of a new car just to own a firearm.
This is how modern gun control circumvents outright bans.
The impassioned pleas made by Attorney General Homer Cummings to pass the NFA carry an eerily similar tone when compared to how our politicians approach gun control today. In fact, there are four major points to Cummings’ gun control tactics in 1934 that strongly parallel how our politicians try to take down the Second Amendment in the 21st century:
1. A false sense of urgency.
Even though criminals and crime bosses were being pursued and killed by law enforcement (and even though the NFA would not have stopped any gang shootings or hits in 1934), a false sense of urgency to pass the bill was made in Congress. A.G. Cummings said the NFA simply had to be passed immediately, lest major cities be razed to the ground by gang violence.
2. Ignorant politicians.
Remember how that $200 tax stamp equated to just under $4,000 in 1934? The average revolver cost around $5.00 at that time, too. Could you imagine having to pay a 750% sales tax on a handgun?
Thankfully, the professional accounts and testimony of gun rights advocates prevented the NFA from passing with the tax stamp being applied to most firearms. The final version of the bill restricted the tax to short-barreled rifles and suppressors. Nonetheless, America came a little too close to having most firearms restricted from purchase with a nearly insurmountable tax. Little more needs to said about the ignorance of the politicians who drafted the National Firearms Act.
3. Needlessly restricts rights.
Even today, the NFA needlessly restricts suppressors in America. The ATF reported in 2017 that there were over 1.3 million suppressors registered with gun owners across the country, with around 400,000 added each year. In 2019, it’s safe to assume that number is close to 2 million.
But suppressors have been used in just 44 crimes per year, on average. That means roughly 0.003% of all suppressors are used in crimes. And in analyzing 44 suppressor crimes from one year of data, it was found only 6 involved defendants with felony convictions. The remaining 38 charges were for simple registration and paperwork violations, not shootings or criminal activity.
By the numbers, do you find justification in severely restricting the ownership of suppressors in 2019? What about in 1934, when it would have cost you nearly $4,000 to buy one? Suppressor owners are, statistically, the most law-abiding citizens in the nation. And suppressors are, statistically, the safest firearm component on the market.
4. Side-steps the Constitution with loopholes.
We’ve beat a dead horse on this fourth point, but it’s the most important point to analyze. Effective gun control doesn’t just try to ban guns. Politicians have found that too difficult – Cummings even said so in his own words. Instead, politicians actively search for loopholes to write into legislation to make gun ownership nearly impossible for the average American.
If a gun can’t be banned, just make it too difficult to legally buy, sell, or own that gun. California is particularly guilty of this: In 2007, the state approved a law requiring any semiautomatic handguns sold in the state to have “microstamping” abilities. This law requires any handgun to microscopically stamp its make, model, and serial number on the ejected shell casing when fired. Companies like Smith & Wesson have responded in kind by simply refusing to sell handguns in California.
A company press release from Smith & Wesson noted, “a number of studies have indicated that microstamping is unreliable, serves no safety purpose, is cost prohibitive and, most importantly, is not proven to aid in preventing or solving crimes.” This obviously side-steps the Constitution. If California can’t ban handguns, just make it impossible for manufacturers to sell them. Same effect.
California’s micro-stamping law is just one example of how politicians are chipping away at 2A rights using the NFA playbook. New Jersey now requires every gun shop in the state to sell smart guns. These expensive, un-proven, and generally worthless pieces of technology don’t provide any benefit in reducing gun violence or crime. But the state benefits because it’s helping to put gun shops out of business.
To even buy a gun in Massachusetts, you need to pay $100 and submit an application for a firearms license. The entire process takes up to 60 days. Keep in mind, you need to pay $100 for each gun you want to buy. Democrats have taken advantage of the Virginia shooting and introduced a federal suppressor ban for the entire country. Never mind the head of the ATF said suppressors should be de-regulated. If the Federal government was allowed to levy the equivalent of a $3,800 tax on firearm purchases over 80 years ago, what’s stopping any politician or government agency from attempting the same thing today?