Why the NFA only benefits the rich

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The National Firearms Act, or NFA, is the law that dictated that machine guns had to be tightly controlled. The thinking at the time was that if you did this, the mob wouldn’t get their hands on them. They did, of course, but by then it was too late.

Then we got another law that said no new machine guns could be added to the registry.

As Stephen Gutowski notes over at Reason, that has had a predictable impact on these firearms.

A short-barrel AR without a flash suppressor, though? That may be my dream full-auto. While my writing about guns professionally often affords me the opportunity to shoot them, a writers’ salary means I’ll likely never be able to actually own one of those guns.

The ATF currently reports having 741,146 machine guns in their registry. However, a 1994 Department of Justice (DOJ) report shows only around 240,000 registered machine guns nearly a decade after the new sales ban went into place. That suggests more than half a million of the registered machine guns aren’t actually transferable to normal civilians and are likely owned by law enforcement agencies or gun dealers with special licenses (some of whom will rent them out to civilians on a per-shot basis).

Severely restricting the supply has naturally sent the price of machine guns into the stratosphere. It’s extremely difficult for a civilian, even one with no criminal record and the patience to go through the monthslong registration process, to buy any fully automatic gun. The very cheapest ones on the open market go for around $10,000. A gun that’s little more than a metal tube and a spring which initially cost a few hundred dollars to produce can go for over $13,000.

A civilian can build a semi-automatic AR-15 from parts for around $600. A fully-automatic M-16 or M-4, which shares nearly the same design but has a different fire-control mechanism starts at around $25,000. Prices only go up from there. Thus a gun that costs a few hundred dollars to build can sell for as much as a luxury car or even an exotic supercar.

And the hilarious thing, at least to me, is that some of the biggest proponents of the NFA are the very people who deride the wealthy with every other fiber of their being, all while supporting a law that only really benefits them.

See, criminals will use whatever guns they can get their hands on. They don’t really care that the gun itself is full-auto or semi-auto.

But what the NFA does is create a type of firearm that only the wealthy can afford. It’s quite the investment for them, actually. After all, in a nation of 330 million, we’re looking at only are 240,000 machine guns available for transfer, and with the price being what it is, most of us just aren’t going to afford something like that.

And to be sure, the people who will fight against the NFA’s repeal via political donations the most may well be those who own these guns themselves. After all, if anyone can buy a machine gun brand new and manufacturers can build them for the civilian market, the value of those “investments” is going to nosedive.

Since a lot of those same folks also donate to Democrats, I can’t help but wonder.

Meanwhile, criminals are getting full-auto firearms. The NFA isn’t actually stopping them. It’s just stopping folks like you and me from being able to afford to purchase these weapons.

Unfortunately, if you even talk about repeal, you’re going to see the anti-Second Amendment crowd lose their minds. You’ll also see a lot of people you might think of as allies lose theirs as well. All this despite the law clearly not working as intended.

Then again, gun control laws don’t have to work to disarm criminals. They just have to help to keep us disarmed.