RIFLE Act Aims To Shoot Down NFA Taxes

(AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)

A little over a month ago a bill was introduced in the house, H.R.3101 – RIFLE Act. The RIFLE Act was introduced by Representative Ashley Hinson [R-IA-1] on May 11, 2021 and is scaffolded to remove the tax burden imposed on those seeking the purchase of NFA regulated items. The bill when introduced had 60 original co-sponsors. From a press release:

Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (IA-01) today introduced the Repealing Illegal Freedom and Liberty Excises (RIFLE) Act. Under current law, there is a $200 tax on the transfer and purchase of firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act. This legislation would remove the existing $200 tax on firearms sold to law-abiding gun owners.

“The federal government should not be placing financial barriers on the inalienable rights of Americans. This unconstitutional tax on certain firearm purchases is a direct violation of the Second Amendment and must be repealed. As the Biden Administration and Democrats push proposals that unfairly target law-abiding gun owners, I will continue to stand up for Iowans’ right to keep and bear arms.” -Congresswoman Ashley Hinson

The bill aims to specifically render relief in the following ways:

  • Under current law, there is a $200 tax on the transfer and purchase of firearms regulated under the National Firearms Act.
    • According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the $200 transfer tax was intended to “to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions” of firearms.
    • The federal government intentionally placed a financial barrier on the Second Amendment, discriminating against individuals based on their level of expendable income.
  • The RIFLE Act would remove the infringing tax on firearms governed under the National Firearms Act, including short-barreled rifles and silencers.
  • This legislation would also ensure that pistols with stabilizing braces would not be subject to the $200 transfer tax.
  • This legislation does not modify any current background check provisions, it solely removes the federally-mandated financial burden on law-abiding gun owners.

In my opinion, the NFA as it stands, really would not hold up to constitutional muster if it were challenged today. With items being regulated that would fall under the prevue of arms that are in fact constitutionally protected; in common use (Heller) and yes, some which the military would use (Miller), the tax amounts to one akin to a poll tax. We do have the following which was quoted in United States v. Miller:

In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State of Tennessee, 2 Humph., Tenn., 154, 158.

By virtue of that statement, nearly all firearms regulated under the NFA would be considered protected under the Second Amendment, and per Heller we know the Second Amendment applies to private citizens, “the people”.

Further, if we applied the same logic used in Harper v. Virginiaa case involving the formerly mentioned “poll tax”, to the Second Amendment, we’d see the blatant unconstitutionality of the NFA:

We conclude that a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard. Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth nor to paying or not paying this or any other tax.

With all the debates over federal overreach coming from the ATF, or AFT as the Biden-Harris administration likes to call them, bills like these being introduced shows a glimmer of hope coming from the freedom loving congresscritters in office. Honestly, this bill would right a wrong. While there is hardly a chance this bill would make it through both the House and Senate, its introduction is important. Even if there was the needed support from the legislators, it’s not likely that Biden would be told to sign the bill into law. That being said, the bill is prime to be reintroduced, along with several other bills that aim to lift unconstitutional provisions from the law, for a day when there is more support for such measures.

Jul 31, 2021 8:30 AM ET