Half-Cocked: Dismantling NFA ’34 for Short Barrelled Weapons

For those unaware of firearms regulations, the National Firearms Act of 1934 severely regulated rifles and shotguns of a certain barrel and overall length, amongst other things. However rifles and shotguns above the respective lengths were not regulated. Handguns, which are much shorter and more concealable than short barrelled rifles and shotguns, were left alone. The argument at the time was that these specific weapons needed to be kept out of the hands of gangsters and criminals.

HALF‐COCKED: THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK OF SHORT‐BARREL FIREARMS” was recently published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy [Vol. 40 No. 2]. It makes very short work of the arbitrary NFA regulations for short barrelled rifles and shotguns.

Logic abounds in this paper. Not only are these class of weapons rarely used in crime, especially in comparison to non-NFA firearms, but there are only arbitrary differences between, for example, a 16″ barrelled AR-15 variant rifle that is unregulated, and the same rifle with a 14.5″ barrel that requires a $200 tax, full sets of fingerprints, LEO approval, and a “Tax Stamp” that follows the weapon from purchase to possession to sale as well as takes about 1 year to be approved by the BATFE.

How can the 1.5″ difference between the two rifles have such a compelling interest to justify such a severe restriction in the exercise of Second Amendment rights? Especially when typical handgun barrels are 3 – 5 inches with a much smaller overall length?

“Half-Cocked” does an excellent job of making this aspect of the National Firearms Act look completely arbitrary and capricious. It would fail any strict scrutiny test for the Second Amendment given the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence in the Heller ruling. May certiorari be granted in the near future!

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