National Firearms Act: Explained

With an increasing amount of ATF rulings and state laws taking effect in 2023 and these restrictions negatively impacting the right to bear arms, gun control measures are frequently a trending topic on social media. A prevalent, historic, and often debated gun regulation is the National Firearms Act (NFA). The NFA is an act of Congress and many Americans have questioned its constitutionality. In this write-up, you’ll learn what the NFA is, what the NFA does, and the movement to repeal the NFA.

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What is the NFA?

The National Firearms Act (commonly referred to as the NFA) is a specific list of firearms-related items that require increased scrutiny and approval in order for Americans to obtain them. The NFA was enacted by the United States Congress and is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The ATF is a subset of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and is led by Director Steven Dettelbach. Conceived in 1934 and spearheaded at the time by Attorney General Homer Stille Cummings and Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the NFA was passed into law by a Democrat-majority Congress. What does the NFA do? The NFA was implemented by the federal government to restrict firearms ownership and the NFA imposes a tax on Americans that build or obtain certain types of firearms that the US government considers“NFA items” or “NFA firearms”. By its nature “NFA items'' and their special categorization run counter to the “right to bear arms” enshrined in the constitution, thus many people frequently ask “what is an NFA firearm”: certain rifles and shotguns, fully automatic weapons (such as machine guns), and silencers (previously known as “firearm mufflers”) built by the best firearms brands, such as SIG Sauer, Daniel Defense, and SilencerCo, could be on the NFA Firearms list.

NFA Firearms ListNFA Firearms List

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NFA Firearms List

Short Barreled Rifles    A rifle with a barrel less than 16” long.
Short Barreled Shotguns    A shotgun with a barrel less than 18” long.
Fully Automatic Weapons    A firearm that fires more than once by a single action of the trigger.
Any Other Weapons    Any weapon or device capable of being concealed on the person from which a shot can be discharged through the energy of an explosive, but does not meet the definition of a rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver, or machine gun.
Silencers    Any device for silencing, muffling, or diminishing the report of a portable firearm.


NFA Tax StampNFA Tax Stamp

NFA Tax Stamp

The NFA tax stamp is a $200 surcharge required by the ATF for weapons listed on the NFA registry. Commonly called a tax stamp, this additional cost is required when submitting an application to obtain an NFA item.  When getting a tax stamp for an NFA item, a fee is paid to the US government and the applicant must also provide personal information to the ATF, in the form of an application. The most frequently filed ATF applications could be the eForm 1 or eForm 4 and these documents require your full name, address, date of birth, social security number, fingerprints, photo, and more. The application is then submitted to the ATF and when approved, an NFA tax stamp is issued, corresponding with the serial number of that NFA item. 

Opposition and Attempt to Repeal the NFA

There’s been staunch opposition to the National Firearms Act and in July 2022, H.R.8399 was introduced in an attempt to repeal the NFA. Sponsored by Republicans Madison Cawthorn and Lauren Boebert, the “Repeal the NFA” bill aimed to strengthen the rights of American gun owners and (as the name implies) repeal the NFA. This legislation was the most recent, but not the first, attempt to repeal the NFA. Since its introduction in 1934, the NFA act has been deemed “government overreach“ and an attack on the second amendment. As of the time of this writing, these attempts have not been passed into legislation. The NFA continues to face strict opposition from politicians and coalitions such as the NRA-ILA, Gun Owners of America (GOA), and Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC).

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