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173



[Get Opera!]

THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 173, May 13, 2002
YOU'RE ON MY LIST

You Can Own a Machine Gun (If You Pay a Bribe)

by Jeff Elkins
jeffelkins@earthlink.net
http://www.elkins.org

Special to TLE

Did you know that in many areas of the country, it's perfectly legal (after paying an unconstitutional federal tax) to own an automatic weapon?

The National Firearms Act of 1934 states in part:

  • Rate. -- There shall be levied, collected, and paid on firearms transferred a tax at the rate of $200 for each firearm transferred, except, the transfer tax on any firearm classified as any other weapon under section 5845(e) shall be at the rate of $5 for each such firearm transferred.

  • By whom paid. -- The tax imposed by subsection (a) of this section shall be paid by the transferor.

  • Payment. -- The tax imposed by subsection (a) of this section shall be payable by the appropriate stamps prescribed for payment by the Secretary.

Now, 1934's NFA is blatantly unconstitutional and the laughable $200 tax was passed when a Thompson submachine gun could be purchased for $225. Who in their right mind would pay the then enormous tax of two hundred dollars, almost doubling the price of the weapon? Even more so for a short-barrelled shotgun worth ten 1934 dollars?

Rather than voting an outright ban on these so-called 'class three' weapons, the courageous solons of 1934 were attempting a stealthy outlawing based on economic suppression. One that has largely worked, but they did include a provision to lock out the wealthy as well.

In addition to paying the unconstitutional tax, you have to beg permission from the top cop of whatever locale you happen to live in.

A certificate of the local chief of police, sheriff of the county, head of the State police, State or local district attorney or prosecutor, or such other person whose certificate may in a particular case be acceptable to the Director, shall be completed on each copy of the Form 4 (Firearms). The certificate shall state that the certifying official is satisfied that the fingerprints and photograph accompanying the application are those of the applicant and that the certifying official has no information indicating that the receipt or possession of the firearm would place the transferee in violation of local law or that the transferee will use the firearm for other than lawful purposes.

Obviously, it's a rare local law enforcement official who would willingly sign such a document, unless perhaps they were persuaded by a large campaign contribution. It's an inherently corrupt process.

Not only does it invite corruption from local officials, it also corrupts the industry as well. Quoting Federal Firearms Licensee D. Kel Whelan:

"Often dealers find it in their interest to bribe or search out friendly chiefs and sheriffs in order to provide signoffs for their clients. Sometimes it works out the opposite way. In some areas, if you don't buy the item from a store that made a significant contribution to the sheriff's re-election fund, you don't get a signoff."

Additionally, obtaining a CLEO (chief law enforcement officer) signoff can be next to impossible in many areas where the elected officials are anti-gun, despite the fact that the sale and ownership of automatic weapons may be perfectly legal in that particularstate. NFA enthusiasts are often confounded by local officials conspiring amongst themselves to not sign these forms. Also, BATF agents routinely advise local officials against signing.

Again quoting Whelan:

"We waste our anger on locals who have no business viewing our private tax documents in the first place, yet "required" to by an illegal BATF form. We waste time and money issuing writs of mandamus to local officials, attempting to get them to "do their job", when it clearly isn't."

Whelan's attempting to address the situation.

As chairman of the 1934 Group, Whelan has brought suit in federal court charging that the NFA requirement for signoff has serious 5th, 4th and 10th Amendment flaws, which negatively impact our ability to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights.

Our courts haven't seriously addressed the 2nd amendment for decades, but recently, they have been willing to examine it piecemeal. The recent "Emerson" decision had some good news for gun owners and portions of the Brady Act were struck down on the basis of legal arguments similar to lhose being made by the 1934 Group.

The 1934 National Firearms Act needs to be trashed in its entirety, but in the meantime, the 1934 Group has a worthy goal in its sights.


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