EPIC Failure ~ Short Barreled Rifles Were NOT Intended to be Regulated by NFA

Epic Fail Failure
EPIC Failure ~ Short Barreled Rifles Were NOT Intended to be Regulated by NFA

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- In 1934, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) administration had been in office for one year. The Attorney General, Homer Cummings, was a strong proponent of national gun laws, which, he contended, could get around constitutional constraints by using the power to tax.

The Justice Department crafted a bill to create the National Firearms Act of 1934.

It was a major piece of legislation, arguably the first time the Federal Government had significantly infringed on the right to keep and bear arms, protected by the Second Amendment.

Attorney General Cummings was asked to testify before the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House, which was considering the bill.

In the original bill, the focus was on pistols and revolvers, short-barreled shotguns, concealable firearms, silencers, and machine guns. Short barreled rifles were not included.

page 1 of H.R. 9066 hearing on 16 April 1934

This made sense. The media had hyped the dangers of gangsters roaming the nation and robbing banks, armed with pistols, machine guns, and sawed-off shotguns. These firearms were demonized as “gangster weapons“, much America’s most popular rifle the AR 15 is called an “assault weapon” and demonized under the misleading name today.

There was no demonization of short-barreled rifles. Such items were commonly used for hunting, offered by major manufacturers, usually as a special order. Both Winchester and Marlin made thousands of rifles with barrels less than 18 inches long. Quackenbush made many thousands of popular short-barreled “bicycle” rifles.

The committee transcripts from April 16, 1934, (embedded below) record how short-barreled rifles were added to the National Firearms Act.

Image from wikimedia.org Short barreled Trapper model on top. Image rotated, cropped, and scaled by Dean Weingarten

Stupid Politicians Making Law on Things they Don’t Understand

A congressman from Minnesota, who was a member of the Ways and Means Committee, appears to be confused.

On page 13 of the committee transcripts, a curious exchange takes place.

Representative Harold Knutson, of Minnesota, asks Attorney General Homer Cummings if he may add “rifles” to the bill and raise the barrel length to 18 inches, to protect deer hunting rifles in his home state. Cummings is bewildered by the request. It does not make any sense.  Eventually, Cummings says it is acceptable to him, to gain the approval of Representative Knutson. Cummings needs the votes on the committee to pass the bill. From the hearing:

Mr.KNUTSON. General, would there be any objection, on page 1, line 4, after the word” shotgun” to add the words” or rifle” having a barrel less than 18 inches? The reason I ask that is I happen to come from a section of the State where deer hunting is a very popular pastime in the fall of the year and, of course, I would not like to pass any legislation to forbid or make it impossible for our people to keep arms that would permit them to hunt deer. 

Attorney General CUMMINGS. Well, as long as it is not mentioned at all, it would not interfere at all.

Mr. KNUTSON. It seems to me that an 18 -inch barrel would make this provision stronger than 16 inches, knowing what I do about firearms.

Attorney General CUMMINGS. Well, there is no objection as far as we are concerned to including rifles after the word” shotguns” if you desire.

After this exchange, Representative Knutson fades from the picture. He has a few questions later. On page 87, he makes sure that rifles with barrels over 18 inches are exempted from the bill.

Quinn Otto-Moudry makes the same observation in an article in The Cornell Review examining the NFA hearings, in September of 2020:

Knutson asked if there “would…be any objection…after the word “shotgun” to add the words “or rifle” having a barrel less than 18 inches?…It seems to me that an 18-inch barrel would make this provision stronger than 16 inches, knowing what I do about firearms.” (pg 13), adding that he did not wish to interfere with his constituents ability to possess deer hunting rifles. This line of reasoning is extremely odd given that the congressman was asking to add restrictions which would make it harder to acquire rifles.

In the remaining transcripts, the focus is on pistols, machine guns, and sawed-off shotguns. Rifles are barely mentioned. Sawed-off shotguns are referred to repeatedly.

The record is clear. Today, we deal with the bizarre regulatory world where short-barreled rifles are tightly regulated and taxed, while pistols with virtually the same capability, only more concealable, are honored and recognized by the Supreme Court as protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

All because a confused congressman from Minnesota did not realize he was asking for exactly the opposite of what he claimed he desired.

Harold Knutson, of Minnesota
Harold Knutson, of Minnesota: Short barreled rifles were added to the NFA all because a confused congressman from Minnesota did not realize he was asking for exactly the opposite of what he claimed he desired.

The FDR administration never asked for short-barreled rifles to be under tight control. The record shows they did not consider short-barreled rifles to be dangerous and unusual.

They simply accepted the confused request from a powerful committee member, in the process of passing the bill.

National Firearms Act of 1934 Committee Transcripts


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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BOB
BOB
21 days ago

He were a Congress Man an he knows what’s best for you.

LOLOLOLOLOL

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago

Can you remove a pistol brace and still have an AR15 pistol function?

Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago

You can take the brace off of a buffer tube without effecting firearm function at all. However if you remove the buffer tube the firearm will be an expensive paper weight.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
1 month ago
Reply to  Finnky

So, if you have a 7.25 inch buffer and a 6 inch barrel, what is the minimum length of an AR15 pistol?

Orion
Orion
21 days ago

currently, no minimum nor maximum length requirement. under the new proposed regs tho….. 26″ OAL is the max.

JohnLloydScharf
JohnLloydScharf
21 days ago
Reply to  Orion

I am not referring to an ATF requirement. I am wondering what the design limits of an AR15 configuration would be if you reduced it to a 7.25 buffer and 6 inch barrel. I have seen pistols for .223 which are not AR15 and less than 18.5 inches. What is the shortest AR15 configuration possible if you do not want a brace??

Orion
Orion
21 days ago

yes, that what early AR pistols were. smooth round tubes came first (1990s) and multi- position carbine tubes later. early pistols couldnt accept stocks but atf later relaxed that reg to just where stocks could not be installed.
and then came SB Tactical with their approved A3 and the world rocked!

Briley
Briley
1 month ago

This guy has an interesting history. Check him out in this summary of his career: Harold Knutson: 32 Years of Trial and Transformation – Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History (fascinatingpolitics.com) Who really knows where he was coming from when he wanted SBR to be included in the bill. Maybe he was influence? Nobody seem to know why the idiot did it. He was a Republican but I’m not sure what that meant in those days – he voted like a Democrat on many things and like a Republican on others. Reminds me of representative,… Read more »

SGT_Wombat
SGT_Wombat
1 month ago

And this is why all politicians should have to pass a civics test AND background check before running for office

DIYinSTL
DIYinSTL
1 month ago

At least semi-automatics were removed from the H.R. 9066 (NFA) definition of machine gun. Don’t forget to review the ATF’s pending rule on pistol arm braces and politely inform them that the simplest solution is to remove SBRs from the U.S. Code. Modern handguns have evolved in power and accuracy thus relegating the original concept of a SBR as an archaic footnote in firearm history.

Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago
Reply to  DIYinSTL

I would avoid expressing such sentiment if at all possible. You would just be encouraging them to (attempt to) ban all handguns instead of freeing SBRs.

John Dow
John Dow
1 month ago

Just goes to show legiscritters then were as clueless about firearms as they are today.

RepealNFA
RepealNFA
1 month ago

ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME, OF COURSE HE KNEW EXACTLY WHAT HE WAS DOING. Anytime you have an overthrow of a nation’s constitution and rights, SECRET powers are at work. The ancient tactic of creating the problem, pushing propaganda, and PROVIDING THE “SOLUTION.” Secret traitors had already in 1913 passed the “federal reserve” act and the 16th amendment. So gutting the 2nd amendment was child’s play to them. The secret memo had clearly gone around to certain individuals in congress that THIS WAS THEIR TIME TO GUT THE 2ND AMENDMENT. This was their opportunity. Like after 9/11 the memo went… Read more »

Knute
Knute
1 month ago
Reply to  RepealNFA

As well documented in G. Edward Griffins; “The Creature from Jekyll Island”
-https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/the-creature-from-jekyll-island-a-second-look-at-the-federal-reserve_g-edward-griffin/246146/?gclid=CjwKCAjwn6GGBhADEiwAruUcKjpIvirfaDBnciesla_yIRCI5FKSs-RHOsk34sbGc2v8hWItBQmrKBoCxDcQAvD_BwE#edition=6207407&idiq=1337745

JayWPB
JayWPB
1 month ago

Is my .22 revolver with the 12″ barrel is an LBP? Just do away with the SBR designation. The reason for it never existed. Problem solved! However, it wouldn’t give the government a reason to put more people on the taxpayer’s payroll. While we’re at it, do away with the NFA and the GCA. The reasons for those never existed, either. I CAN see a couple of reasons why CONCEALED firearms might in some cases be temporarily restricted, but not open carry. If you can’t trust someone with a visible firearm to be somewhere, then you can’t trust ANYONE to… Read more »

JimmyS
JimmyS
1 month ago

Hey, it’s official documentation of traitors committing treason. Those names should be right there with that of Benedict Arnold.

Agostino
Agostino
1 month ago

Law of unintended consequences.

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner
26 days ago
Reply to  Agostino

“Unintended” and “Consequences” should be capitalized.

Ryben Flynn
Ryben Flynn
1 month ago

It’s the women’s fault that the 1934 NFA was passed. It started with the Women’s Temperance Movement in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1874 to ban alcohol. That led to the 18th. Amendment and the Volstead Act. Of course criminals never obey any law so liquor smuggling took off like a rocket. Gangsters fighting over territory using machine guns and short barrel shotguns, rival groups having shootouts and massacres and other crimes. The FBI couldn’t get Al Capone on any crime so they got him for Tax Evasion on his ill-gotten gains. All that led to the 1934 NFA. Then since Prohibition… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Ryben Flynn
Watch um
Watch um
1 month ago

It is my thinking that the damn yankee of the far north who did not have the sense of a goose be suffering from the heat of eternal flames.
Now my usage of yankee does not reflect my thoughts of all northern people, only the dearly departed member of Congress that is vexing our very hearts today.

stick
stick
1 month ago

Well, that figures. Even way back then congress was like a Saturday night on the acute psychiatric ward.

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago

Just this evidence alone should be allowed to NIX the SBR’s from the NFA.

gregs
gregs
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

the government never gives up anything, taxes, rules/regulations (power) unless forced to do so by the president, like Trump did. you are still paying to install telephone poles across America on you land line phone bill. congress abdicated its authority to unelected bureaucrats so they wouldn’t have to take any blame for the regulations they create.

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner
26 days ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

Do a search sometime for the previously lost but later found archival video footage of Charlie ” ‘Shine” Rangel, taking the voice vote and “passing” the Hughes Amendment (part of FOPA?) banning manufacturer of new machineguns for the civilian market. The sheer audacity of Democrat corruption and criminality knows no bounds.

TStheDeplorable
TStheDeplorable
1 month ago

The problem with all this is that once a statute is passed the first principle of statutory interpretation is to give the statute its plain meaning, giving the words of the statute their common meanings. This changes if statutes give different definitions, in which those definitions apply. The only time that the congressional record is used to interpret a statute is where the wording of a statute is ambiguous. Unfortunately, the NFA is not ambiguous on the issue of short barreled rifles. It is utterly stupid on the issue, but it is not ambiguous. So, to prevent the concealment of… Read more »

Arizona
Arizona
1 month ago

If you read the full transcripts, and the testimony of the gentleman representing the NRA, all of Congress knew and admitted that they had zero authority to regulate or police firearms. They knew that the 2nd amendment prohibited them from having any authority over firearms. They admitted that they were using taxing authority as an end run around the 2nd, to create an excuse to arrest and prosecute gangsters, who wouldn’t pay the tax. The unintended consequence of this illegal action was the greatest infringement in history, and the first step by reprehensible “public servants” to disarm their countrymen.

Green Mtn. Boy
Green Mtn. Boy
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

All gun control laws of any stripe or color are UnConstitutional,PERIOD.

Excellent work as always Dave.

Jaque
Jaque
1 month ago
Reply to  Arizona

When the government evades the law, as in being antagonists against the Second Amendment it no longer serves the interests of the people. The Second Amendment is clear. So is the oath lawmakers and ATF personell take to support and defend the constitution. I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully… Read more »

DDS
DDS
1 month ago

Legislation written by confused congress critters. Imagine that!

CourageousLion
CourageousLion
1 month ago
Reply to  DDS

Any Congress critter who is CONFUSED needs to be removed from office immediately. CONFUSED people are candidates for a psych ward.

GomeznSA
GomeznSA
1 month ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

CL -“Any Congress critter who is CONFUSED needs to be removed from office immediately” – umm that would be just about ALL of them! Maybe if that were to happen we ‘might’ actually get legislators who actually are representative of the people instead of wannabe career political hacks. There is a reason I tend to refer to them as CONgress critters……………….

Roland T. Gunner
Roland T. Gunner
26 days ago
Reply to  CourageousLion

That includes sleepy, Creepy Old Joe.

JimmyS
JimmyS
1 month ago
Reply to  DDS

If you imagine they’re just confused, you’re stupider than you imagine they are.

Neanderthal75
Neanderthal75
1 month ago
Reply to  JimmyS

Really? Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee thinks that Neil Armstrong landed on Mars! She said that an AR-15 weighs as much as 6 or 7 large moving boxes full of stuff! Representative Johnson actually was worried that Guam would tip over because the US Military had continued to offload a crap load of material, munitions, and other heavy duty equipment on the base on guam, and he was deathly afraid Guam would tip over because of all the extra weight! I am not kidding! There are literally thousands of such comments from Democrats in Congress! These people take the concept of… Read more »