Senator Feinstein’s (D, Cal.) Gun Control Bill would require adding millions of semi-automatic rifles and pistols to the National Firearms Act (NFA) registry. So far, this registry has been used for class 3* only. The summary of Feinstein’s Bill appears to say that the number of transferable semi-autos would be fixed or “grandfathered” as of the date of the Bill’s enactment, just like the May 1986 freeze on transferable machineguns. President Obama has indicated that he will support the Bill and push for its passage, along with his former campaign team, now called “Organizing for Action.”
The new law, if passed, would result in a massive, nationwide registration. The logistics of such a registration would be tremendous and costly. Millions of gunowners would have a limited amount of time to register their firearms. This would cause a huge workload for the Office of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms & Explosives (ATF&E). Thousands of additional NFA agents would be needed to process this surge in registration. The management by the NFA of the ongoing selling and buying of these now-registered semi-autos within the federal NFA registry would also create a huge workload on the NFA.
Registration is different from and much more restrictive that the current background check system. It requires permission for possession from the NFA office after a review of the owner’s personal information, fingerprints, photograph and signature of his/her local chief law enforcement official. Please see ATF&E Form 4 for those details.
Lastly, the requirement of registering semi autos in the federal NFA registry will make possession of unregistered semi-auto rifle and pistols a crime, make their owners subject to arrest for a felony and result in confiscation of unregistered firearms.
The constitutionality of this effort is highly questionable, but the Supreme Court would have to provide the definitive answer.
-Lenden Eakin, Esquire
*Currently, Class 3 items are machineguns, rifles with barrels less than 16″, shotguns with barrels less than 18″, sound suppressors, and miscellaneous other weapons like rifles of more than 50 caliber, handgrenades, grenade launchers and various destructive devices. There are legislative proposals to add over 100 semi-automatic rifles to the Class 3 category.