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Dear Senator/Congressman:

 

I am writing to encourage you to propose and support efforts to revise federal firearms laws, and especially the rules surrounding firearms covered by the National Firearms Act.  Given the age of the statues, the advance of technology, and the updated Second Amendment protections affirmed in Heller, the existing laws can use updating to more concretely spell out the legal status and restrictions while offering better fidelity to the Second Amendment rights of Americans everywhere.  Included is a sample bill that would begin the process of streamlining and reforming the nation's firearms laws to reduce the burden on law-abiding citizens and preserve their second amendment rights while focusing enforcement efforts on criminal use of firearms.

 

While the sample bill is by necessity somewhat complex given the nature of current law, the plain-english summary of the bill's intentions are as follows:

  1. Re-open the NFA registry for machineguns to new entries subject to the same restrictions present for current machineguns
  2. Clarify the distinction between a machinegun and a malfunctioning firearm.  Create a separate class for "machinegun converters" that covers the case of potential conversions with generally innocuous materials.
  3. Create a class of "readily convertible" firearms that are not taxed, but are subject to the purchase authorization and background checks applicable to machineguns.
  4. Unify "short barrel shotguns" and "short barrel rifles" into "short barrel firearms" and provide for a clear and concise breakdown between rifles/shotguns, short barrel firearms, and handguns
  5. Remove the tax on silencers to reduce hearing damage and noise pollution
  6. Revise "sporting purpose" language to the expanded range of protected uses as per Heller
  7. Increase the bore size test for Destructive Devices to explicitly exclude shotguns from NFA regulation
  8. Provide for a path to legalize existing firearms currently not registered with the NFA
  9. Reduce penalties for technical violations of the NFA where no other criminal use of the weapon in question exists.

 

Currently the NFA registry is closed for individuals to the transfer or creation of machineguns not in civilian hands prior to 1986.  The registry was closed based on a questionable amendment process in the house (look up "Hughes Amendment Vote" for more details), and was purely ideological.  While the public perception of machineguns is "dangerous", statistics show that machineguns registered under the NFA are extremely safe - only two cases of criminal use of an NFA registered machinegun over the past century.  More people die in car accidents in an hour than have died due to NFA-registered machineguns over the past century.  For all the legal/constitutional questions surrounding the National Firearms Act, ti is indisputable that the current system is extremely effective at preventing illegal use of these weapons.  A ban for purely ideological purposes should not be allowed to stand, and Americans should not be villified and jailed for attempting to own the same firearms that their fathers and grandfathers employed to defend their freedom.

 

The concept of "readily convertible" is also a major issue with the current law.  There is no standard definition of this standard, and the application of this varies widely.  This bill would clean up the "readily convertible" language into a more concrete definition, it would also allow a provision for such weapons - forgoing the tax as they are not actual machineguns, but conducting the full background check so that their owners have gone through the same process as if they were purchasing a machinegun (thus ensuring the same level of safety for "readily convertible" firearms as for machineguns).  The "readily convertible" class of firearms is intended to address the issue that there are legitimate and historical semi-automatic firearms that are banned for being "too close" or "readily convertible" to machineguns, restoring to the people a legitimate option for ownership of such firearms.  By distinguishing between actual machineguns and "readily convertible" designs not capable of firing more than one shot with a single trigger pull Congress would also enable residents of states prohibiting machinegun ownership to enjoy and collect these historical or interesting firearms.

 

Heller found that the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self defense was a protected by the Second Amendment.  Given that both rifles and shotguns are often used for self-defense in home situations (where barrel length becomes a maneuverability issue), and given that the distinction between the two in an era of rifled bore shotguns is diminished, this legislation would unify the two into "short barreled firearms" and slightly reduce the overall barrel length.  It would also remove the "designed or redesigned" language, making it clear that it is the present configuration that is important, not the distant history of assembly.  Finally it would more concretely seperate rifles/shotguns, short barrel firearms, and pistols legally, making it clearer to both government and manufacturer where a particular product should be classified.

 

The bore size for "Destructive Devices" is increased so that no common shotgun may be classified as a Destructive Device.  Shotguns are by far the most common firearm with a bore size over the current 0.50" limit - the .50 BMG rifles at the limit range in cost from $3000 to $10,000+ for the firearm, are very heavy, and cost $2-$10 per round to shoot.  This greatly limits their potential for criminal use (as criminals overwhelmingly prefer light concealable weapons), and no non-shotgun caliber over .50 BMG has any current commercial following.  Thus the major effect is to remove discretionary exemption from the NFA and allow the american citizens to decide what they wish to purchase.

 

Finally, it must be recognized that the current penalties for violation of the NFA are extremely severe, even when there is no criminal intent.  A 10-year prison sentence for failure to remit a $200 tax is extreme.  The attached bill would reduce the penalty for individuals in violation of only the NFA, and would allow for the agencies in question to simply let them "come clean" and register their weapons.  It would also allow individuals to "come clean" of their own accord and avoid future prosecution for violations of the NFA.  This has three advantages - it avoids excessive jail time for an individual who is no real danger to society, and allows for individuals who would like to comply with the law but are currently non-compliant with a legal avenue to do so.  By bringing non-compliant items "on the books", it also makes it more likely that an individual will report theft or misuse of their property, helping to restrict the supply of illegal and untraceable firearms.

 

I ask you to consider these changes with an open mind, and work to revise and reform federal firearms law (and especially the National Firearms Act) for the realities of the 21st century.  The changes suggested herein would render current law more predictable and more in line with Second Amendment rights, and would help to focus the efforts of the federal government on real criminal use and trafficking rather than on minutia such as if a particular piece of metal is 1/4" too short.

 

Sincerly,