Do you want conspiracy theories? This is how you get conspiracy theories.
If you’re ever curious about how some segments of the gun-owning population come to believe that American gun laws are specifically designed to punish gun owners for exercising their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, all you have to do is take a good look at these two gun regulations. Of course, these bad laws at the national level are only the beginning—many state and local laws are even more ridiculous—but these are the two most likely to negatively impact the lives of average, everyday citizens.
Treating suppressors as if they were machine guns
Under the National Firearms Act of 1934, suppressors (also known as silencers) are regulated as if they were machine guns. Why is a lump of metal that has no function other than to reduce the amount of noise generated by gunfire covered with the same onion-like layers of red tape as a full-auto Uzi? As you no doubt know, gunfire is really loud. Even a .22 can produce enough report to cause permanent hearing loss. Traditional hearing protection can generally reduce that sound by up to 32 dB…but if you’re shooting centerfire ammunition or a shotgun, wearing that ear protection is really only going to help you go deaf more slowly. What’s more, in Europe—the gun-control Utopia that anti-gunners tout as the model for America—one can buy a suppressor in hardware stores, no questions asked.
Part of the problem here (as always) is public perception of suppressors, which (as always) is largely driven by fictional media. Suppressed gunfire does not sound like a spitting llama—it sounds like gunfire, only a little less painful. (The exception, subsonic .22 ammunition fired through a suppressor, is pretty much silent…but it doesn’t make that little PSSSSH! noise that Hollywood’s Foley artists have been adding to sound reels for decades.)
It’s kinda hard to tell gun owners that the government isn’t out to get us when the government seems to be determined to punish us with permanent deafness for enjoying our hobby. It’s also kinda hard to get us to listen when we literally can’t hear you.
The patchwork of CCW laws
Right now, if you live on the East Coast, it’s possible to wake up in the morning as a law-abiding citizen, lawfully don your CCW rig, drive an hour and become a felon simply by crossing state lines. Your North Carolina drivers’ license is valid in Boston. Your Florida marriage certificate still means you’re married even if you move to California. So why doesn’t a permit you got from the government (the same government charged with defending your natural right to keep and bear arms) work from state to state? Why does your Pennsylvania concealed-carry permit not protect your right to carry in New Jersey?
Part of the problem here is inertia. In order to “walk back” restrictive legislation that’s been in place for decades, we need a certain critical mass of citizens who are negatively affected by that legislation to speak up and make their voices heard. Although gun ownership is extremely common, it’s much less common for a gun owner to travel interstate enough that their rights are being demonstrably infringed. And it’s that “demonstrably” that’s the tricky part—basically, in order to enact legislative or judicial change, citizens have to prove they’re being harmed by this arbitrary and irrational patchwork of contradictory gun laws.
It’s further complicated by the fact that there is a legal way to transport your guns interstate under the “Peaceable Journey” section of the 1986 Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA)—it’s just that that way is cumbersome, potentially dangerous, and defeats the purpose of CCW. Boiled down, the law supposedly protects you as long as your guns are locked in your trunk, unloaded, with your ammunition stored separately. That means that in order to comply, you’d need to pull over, unholster your EDC, unload it, and lock it in your trunk—in full view of whoever’s interested enough to watch.
It’s kinda hard to tell gun owners that the government isn’t out to get us when we can be transformed from a law-abiding citizen into a felon by taking the wrong exit off the freeway.
So if you’ve ever wondered why some gun owners are deeply suspicious of “sensible” gun regulations…well, now you know.
9/12/18 Correction – The citation of the Gun Control Act of 1968 was incorrect in reference to regulation of suppressors. This has been amended to cite the correct legislation – the National Firearms Act of 1934.
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