Suppressors, Short Barrel Rifles, Short Barrel Shotguns, and Machineguns

National Firearms Act

The NFA was originally enacted in 1934. Similar to the current NFA, the original Act imposed a tax on the making and transfer of firearms defined by the Act, as well as a special (occupational) tax on persons and entities engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing, and dealing in NFA firearms. The law also required the registration of all NFA firearms with the Secretary of the Treasury. Firearms subject to the 1934 Act included shotguns and rifles having barrels less than 18 inches in length, certain firearms described as “any other weapons,” machineguns, and firearm mufflers and silencers.

While the NFA was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, the NFA had an underlying purpose unrelated to revenue collection. As the legislative history of the law discloses, its underlying purpose was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA firearms. Congress found these firearms to pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, particularly the gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The $200 making and transfer taxes on most NFA firearms were considered quite severe and adequate to carry out Congress’ purpose to discourage or eliminate transactions in these firearms. The $200 tax has not changed since 1934.

As structured in 1934, the NFA imposed a duty on persons transferring NFA firearms, as well as mere possessors of unregistered firearms, to register them with the Secretary of the Treasury. If the possessor of an unregistered firearm applied to register the firearm as required by the NFA, the Treasury Department could supply information to State authorities about the registrant’s possession of the firearm. State authorities could then use the information to prosecute the person whose possession violated State laws. For these reasons, the Supreme Court in 1968 held in the Haynes case that a person prosecuted for possessing an unregistered NFA firearm had a valid defense to the prosecution — the registration requirement imposed on the possessor of an unregistered firearm violated the possessor’s privilege from self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Haynes decision made the 1934 Act virtually unenforceable.

Title II of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968

Title II amended the NFA to cure the constitutional flaw pointed out in Haynes. First, the requirement for possessors of unregistered firearms to register was removed. Indeed, under the amended law, there is no mechanism for a possessor to register an unregistered NFA firearm already possessed by the person. Second, a provision was added to the law prohibiting the use of any information from an NFA application or registration as evidence against the person in a criminal proceeding with respect to a violation of law occurring prior to or concurrently with the filing of the application or registration. In 1971, the Supreme Court reexamined the NFA in the Freed case and found that the 1968 amendments cured the constitutional defect in the original NFA.

Title II also amended the NFA definitions of “firearm” by adding “destructive devices” and expanding the definition of “machinegun.”

Firearm Owners’ Protection Act

In 1986, this Act amended the NFA definition of “silencer” by adding combinations of parts for silencers and any part intended for use in the assembly or fabrication of a silencer. The Act also amended the GCA to prohibit the transfer or possession of machineguns. Exceptions were made for transfers of machineguns to, or possession of machineguns by, government agencies, and those lawfully possessed before the effective date of the prohibition, May 19, 1986.


Weapon Made from a Shotgun

Image of a Weapon Made from Shotgun
Classification

Weapon Made from a Shotgun

Distinctive Characteristics

Overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length. Both stock and barrel altered.


Short Barreled Shotgun

Image of Short Barreled Shotgun
Classification

Short Barreled Shotgun

Distinctive Characteristics

Shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length.


l2ga. Crude Manufacture

Image of a 12ga Crude Manufacture
Classification

Weapon Made from a Shotgun

Distinctive Characteristics

Barrel less than 18 inches and/or overall length less than 26 inches, stock altered, barrel cut down. Often mistakenly called a “sawed off shotgun.” In this instance overall length is determining factor. However, if the overall length is 26 inches or more and barrel less than 18 inches, this weapon would still be classified as a firearm under the Act.


Short Barreled Rifle

Image of a Short Barreled Rifle
Classification

Short Barreled Rifle

Distinctive Characteristics

Rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.


Weapon Made from a Rifle

Image of a weapon made from rifle
Classification

Weapon Made from a Rifle

Distinctive Characteristics

Overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length.

.22cal., Crude Manufacture

Image of a 22cal Crude Manufacture

Weapon Made from Rifle

Distinctive Characteristics

Barrel less than 16 inches and/or overall length less than 26 inches, stock altered, barrel cut down. In this instance, overall length is the determining factor. Also, firearm was not originally designed or manufactured in its present condition. However, should the overall length be more than 26 inches but the barrel less than 16 inches, it would still be classified as a firearm under the NFA.


Various Silencers

Image of a Silencer - open on the side to showing internal components
Classification

Silencer

Distinctive Characteristics

A Silencer is any device for silencing, muffling or diminishing the report of a portable firearm

Image of a cylindrical object silencer Image of an aerosol can silencer


Flare Launchers

Image of two flare launchers
Classification

Not a Firearm

Distinctive Characteristics

Generally plastic

Special Note

AOW when possessed with ammunition inserts.

Rate of Transfer Tax

None

Flare Launcher Inserts

Image of flare launcher inserts
Classification

Any Other Weapons, only when possessed with a flare launcher

Distinctive Characteristics

Generally made of metal

Special Note

25 mm 12 GA adapter is lawful unless modified

Rate of Transfer Tax

$200.00 if installed in a flare launcher (making of AOW)


Sionics Type Silencer Kit (complete and unassembled)

Image of a Sionics Type Silencer Kit
Classification

Silencer

Distinctive Characteristics

Two outer cylinders, threaded ported sleeve, eyelets, bushing, baffle, spirals, encapsulator, front end cap.

Special Note

The internal components or the outer cylinders, are also silencers as defined.


High Standard H. D. Military, .22cal. Pistol with Silencer

Image of a High Standard HD Mil. 22cal with silencer
Classification

Silencer

Distinctive Characteristics

Any device for silencing or diminishing the report of any portable weapon.


Ruger Standard Model .22cal. Pistol with Homemade Silencer

Image of a Ruger Standard 22cal with silencer
Classification

Silencer

Distinctive Characteristics

Any device for silencing or diminishing the report of any portable weapon.