Obama Misses the Mark with Overbroad NFA Background Check Proposal

Posted on September 6, 2013

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On August 29, the White House announced what it claimed was a “common sense” executive action to “keep the most dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands.”  According to the official press release, prohibited persons are able to avoid background checks on machine guns and other classes of firearms heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act by registering those firearms to trusts or corporations.  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was therefore said to be issuing a proposed regulation to close this supposed loophole and require “individuals associated with trusts or corporations that acquire these types of weapons to undergo background checks, just as these individuals would if the weapons were registered to them individually.” 

Unfortunately, the proposed rule now posted on BATFE’s website is hardly “common sense” and instead displays the Obama administration’s typical knee-jerk anti-gun bias and instinct to further burden and discourage lawful gun ownership.  The firearms at issue in the rule are already covered by stringent federal regulations that require federal authorization, and special taxes for manufacture and transfer.  While they can be registered to trusts or corporations (just as any lawful property can be owned by a trust or corporation), this does not change the fact that people who are prohibited from possessing firearms cannot receive or handle NFA firearms without violating current law.  The idea that someone who wishes to obtain firearms for criminal purposes would pay for the creation of a trust, spend $10,000 or more to obtain any of a dwindling number of machine guns already in the NFA registry and available for civilian transfer, pay a $200 transfer tax on that firearm, register it with the federal government, and wait six or more months to take delivery is simply laughable. 

The White House press release attempts to justify this proposal by asserting that in 2012 alone, BATFE “received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations.”  Yet BATFE does not cite even one instance in which any of those registered firearms was used to commit a crime.  Instead, BATFE’s proposal cites a case in which it denied a transfer of a silencer to an individual who it determined was ineligible to possess a regulated firearm and then denied a subsequent transfer to a trust created by the same person.  This near miss (which obviously was caught under existing regulations and resulted in harm to no one—unlike the Obama-Holder Justice Department’s own activities in the “Fast and Furious” operation) is the pretext on which the administration now proposes to enact far-reaching requirements that by its own reckoning would affect tens of thousands of other transfers that did not raise any red flags whatsoever. Simply requiring more red tape, as the proposed rule would, does not address the reality that the most dangerous and determined criminals will always be one at least step removed from whatever process is imposed upon the law-abiding.

The NRA will be releasing a more detailed response to BATFE’s proposed rule once the formal comment period is underway.  In the meantime, we strongly support the right of peaceable, law-abiding persons to acquire these highly regulated firearms in the way that best suits their particular circumstances, whether through individual transfers or the registration of the firearms to a legal entity such as a corporation or trust.   We look forward to working with the NFA community in the long process of changing or stopping this proposal.  Finally, we urge the Obama administration to rethink its misguided policy of gun control by any means possible, and instead seek real solutions to real dangers by focusing on those who actually commit crime.



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