Have you ever noticed that laws are generally about what you can’t do, instead of what you can? This makes a lot of sense, as it would be silly to try to enumerate all the things you’re allowed to do, like dye your hair blue or put garden gnomes in your front yard. On the other hand, when politicians try to enumerate what people can’t do, things can get pretty ridiculous.
For example, I just got back from a trip to Maryland. There, thanks to new laws written by legislators with the common sense of spackle, you CAN’T have a semi-automatic .223 Remington rifle like an AR, but you CAN have a .308 Winchester semi-automatic rifle like an AR. WTF?
The idiocy of politicians isn’t a new thing. One of our more onerous, and perpetually stupid, firearms laws is the National Firearms Act of 1934. That’s the one that makes it difficult and expensive to acquire mufflers for guns, rifles and shotguns with short barrels, and machine guns. I naturally assumed this was the work of Dianne Feinstein and Michael Bloomberg, but they were still bullying other kids in the nursery back in 1934. So I did a little checking to see what exactly prompted her predecessors to enact this double-ply bill with extra absorbency and wiping effectiveness.
Our brilliant Congress Cabbages of 1934 enacted this law in response to violence related to another brilliant piece of legislative arts and crafts, prohibition. Some think additional reasoning for suppressor control was born from fear of poaching during the Great Depression. Either way, the NFA created a national registry, and associated tax, for weapons designated as particularly evil. At the time, the tax was $200, which back then would buy a lot of mustache wax. Whether it didn’t occur to the Legal Beagles that $200 would decrease in “perceived expense” over time or some forward-thinking patriotic legislator knew the law would become less onerous over the years is unclear. In any case, what was intended to be a nearly insurmountable barrier to ownership is now just an unnecessarily expensive part of buying a short barrel rifle or shotgun, suppressor, or machine gun.
What most people don’t realize is how close the 1934 NFA came to the inclusion of all handguns. In the original language of the Act, all handguns would have carried the same restrictions as machine guns. Because Freedom. Not.
Over the years, the original NFA has been amended and included in newer legislation such as the Gun Control Act of 1968, or GCA for short. That little gem added a new category of banned stuff, Destructive Devices. That would include explosives, grenades, bombs and poison gas. The tough part of the 1968 GCA was the introduction of the concept of “Sporting Purpose” to define guns that they were OK with. We all know that Sporting Purpose has nothing whatsoever to do with Second Amendment rights, but those evil baby kissers created a whole new category of pain in the neck.