Short Barrel Rifle (SBR) Restrictions Suck!

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Is this legal? Yes. Well, sort of. It depends on how you hold it. But that's subject to change at any given time.

Is this legal? Yes. Well, sort of. It depends on how you hold it. But that’s subject to change at any given time.

Have you ever noticed that laws are generally about what you can’t do, instead of what you can? This makes a lot of sense, as it would be silly to try to enumerate all the things you’re allowed to do, like dye your hair blue or put garden gnomes in your front yard. On the other hand, when politicians try to enumerate what people can’t do, things can get pretty ridiculous.

For example, I just got back from a trip to Maryland. There, thanks to new laws written by legislators with the common sense of spackle, you CAN’T have a semi-automatic .223 Remington rifle like an AR, but you CAN have a .308 Winchester semi-automatic rifle like an AR. WTF?

The idiocy of politicians isn’t a new thing. One of our more onerous, and perpetually stupid, firearms laws is the National Firearms Act of 1934. That’s the one that makes it difficult and expensive to acquire mufflers for guns, rifles and shotguns with short barrels, and machine guns. I naturally assumed this was the work of Dianne Feinstein and Michael Bloomberg, but they were still bullying other kids in the nursery back in 1934. So I did a little checking to see what exactly prompted her predecessors to enact this double-ply bill with extra absorbency and wiping effectiveness.

Our brilliant Congress Cabbages of 1934 enacted this law in response to violence related to another brilliant piece of legislative arts and crafts, prohibition. Some think additional reasoning for suppressor control was born from fear of poaching during the Great Depression. Either way, the NFA created a national registry, and associated tax, for weapons designated as particularly evil. At the time, the tax was $200, which back then would buy a lot of mustache wax. Whether it didn’t occur to the Legal Beagles that $200 would decrease in “perceived expense” over time or some forward-thinking patriotic legislator knew the law would become less onerous over the years is unclear. In any case, what was intended to be a nearly insurmountable barrier to ownership is now just an unnecessarily expensive part of buying a short barrel rifle or shotgun, suppressor, or machine gun.

What most people don’t realize is how close the 1934 NFA came to the inclusion of all handguns. In the original language of the Act, all handguns would have carried the same restrictions as machine guns. Because Freedom. Not.

Over the years, the original NFA has been amended and included in newer legislation such as the Gun Control Act of 1968, or GCA for short. That little gem added a new category of banned stuff, Destructive Devices. That would include explosives, grenades, bombs and poison gas. The tough part of the 1968 GCA was the introduction of the concept of “Sporting Purpose” to define guns that they were OK with. We all know that Sporting Purpose has nothing whatsoever to do with Second Amendment rights, but those evil baby kissers created a whole new category of pain in the neck.

What the NFA Means Now

If you want to own a gun or device covered under the NFA, like a short barrel rifle (SBR), you have to first ask for extra-special permission. You’ll fill out a form, with the help of an approved dealer, that you send to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). As an individual, you’ll need to get a signature from your local law enforcement official and include a set of fingerprints. If you are a trustee of a legal NFA trust, you can skip the LEO signature and fingerprints, for now, but you still need to fill out a form. Then, you include $200 for a tax stamp. The tax stamp is literally that. After many months of processing and looking at your application with concerned expressions, the BATFE will return a copy of your application with a colorful stamp attached. This is your permission slip to take possession of your NFA item, whether it be s suppressor, short barrel rifle, short barrel shotgun, or machine gun. There are differences with the Any Other Weapon (AOW) category, but that’s too much detail for today.

Just knowing whether a particular gun falls under this registration process is a logic-free undertaking. An AR-15 pistol with a 10-inch barrel is perfectly legal. An AR-15, that’s exactly the same except for the addition of a plastic stock, it classified as a short barrel rifle (SBR) under the NFA. And if you really want to hurt your brain, try figuring this out on any given day. Can you fire an AR-15 pistol, with a Sig Sauer Arm Brace installed, that’s touching your shoulder? The current ruling is that the configuration is legal, but the act of raising the brace too close to your shoulder is really a process of “remanufacturing the design of the gun” so that it becomes a regulated SBR somewhere in the vertical space between your elbow and shoulder. We’re not sure if BATFE agents will be outfitted with shoulder rulers to determine if we’re being legal or not.

Lunacy of SBR Restrictions

While Al Capone was a fresh prison inductee by the time the NFA was passed, I’m pretty sure his cohorts in crime weren’t really concerned with legal technicalities. Whether or not the law required them to pay $200 to chop the barrel off a shotgun didn’t likely slow down their decision to rob banks and knock off rival gang bosses.

This one is perfectly legal, provided you have your colorful stamp present.

This one is perfectly legal, provided you have your colorful happy stamp present.

The totally arbitrary nature of SBR restrictions reminds me of, wait for it, the arbitrary nature of magazine restrictions. Seven rounds is legal, but eight? You’ve got to be kidding! That’s dangerous to the public! Think of the children! It’s no different with the NFA. 16-inch barrels? Fine. 15.5 inches? Fuhgeddaboutit. 10-inch barrel AR pistol? Sure! Imagine if similar legislation was passed in a non-gun-related scenario, like, oh, say, fast food. Can you even imagine a scenario where a 15-ounce soda is legal, but a 16-ounce one is not? Oh, wait…

Interestingly, one of the arguments we use in favor of adjustable stocks for AR rifles applies to the SBR debate. As we know, adjustable stocks don’t make a rifle more dangerous-er. They simply allow easy and proper fit of the rifle to the shooter, regardless of size and what they’re wearing at the time. Smaller shooter? Bring the stock in. Wearing a heavy jacket? Bring it in a notch. Shooting from a bench? Open it up. For an LE or military user with body armor? Adjust accordingly. It’s simply a feature that helps the shooter use and control the rifle properly.

A similar argument can be made in favor of losing the restriction on short barrel rifles and shotguns. With a proper stock, they’re easier to control and shoot accurately. Pistols and especially AR-type pistols, are not nearly as easy to use accurately. If you want to be sure that shooters are hitting their intended targets, don’t try to restrict the features that facilitate safety and accuracy.

Maybe I’m missing some stories, but I have yet to hear of a wave of criminal atrocities stemming from the use of short barrel rifles as defined by the NFA. It’s not like the law is preventing criminal use. All it takes to make an illegal SBR or SBS is a hacksaw. Last I checked, hacksaws are readily available in all 50 states.

Solutions?

Repeal of the entire NFA at once, while technically constitutional, is virtually impossible. Look at all the current hysteria over “automatic assault weapons” that aren’t even automatic. A realistic approach would be akin to a long and thoughtful chess game. Plan a strategy to execute over a period of time, one move at a time. As much as I’d love to launch a campaign called “Repeal the NFA or we’ll impeach your sorry @ss” that won’t realistically succeed.

The easy answer is to start by abolishing the whole process for less controversial items like suppressors. They’re mufflers! Heck, the government REQUIRES mufflers on cars because noise exposure is dangerous. Even the hoplophobes in Europe encourage the use of suppressors on guns.

I’m not optimistic about politicians simply nuking the NFA status for suppressors anytime soon without some smart work on our part, however. Because government loves money. At $200 a pop and somewhere in the neighborhood of 800,000 silencers already floating around, suppressor tax stamps represent serious pocket change for politicians.

But seriously, it could happen if packaged correctly. While some will always freak out over any return towards unrestricted gun rights, it’s conceivable for Congress to remove silencers from the NFA category. There are two keys to victory. First, the act has to be called something politically attractive, like the Hearing Safety Act. It would be even better to tack a “Hearing Safety” clause onto another non-controversial bill, like a Congressional pay raise. Those always sail right through on Friday evenings. Second, the money shortfall has to be addressed, even if it’s only tens of millions of “lost revenue” per year. Yes, if applications are no longer required for suppressors, then fewer people will need to work at the BATFE to gaze at stacks of waiting paperwork with concerned facial expressions, and the BATFE will save money. Realistically, though, that argument won’t be easy. We’ll have to pitch an equivalent savings plan elsewhere, or a proposal to replace the lost tax stamp fees. Maybe we can implement a 20% hypocrisy tax to all those in political office. Just an idea.

Once mufflers are removed from NFA status, the next step would, of course, be to stop pretending that a 15-inch barreled  rifle is somehow more dangerous than an 16-inch barreled one. This stage two step is not quite as easy as the Hearing Safety Act, but the logic is solid and we’ll have broken ground, so to speak, with the politically palatable suppressor movement.

There’s just no evidence whatsoever to support the claim that short barrel rifles and shotguns somehow cause more crime. Perhaps an effective argument in favor would focus on the home defense value of such guns. With Heller and McDonald rulings, we’re standing on pretty firm ground when it comes to unrestricted rights of defense in the home. Yes, unrestricted concealed carry is still a battleground, but we’re making progress there too. Hey, we could name the Bill something politically palatable like the Gun Control Act, right? A more compact rifle or shotgun is easier to control safely, hence Gun Control Act! Low information voters would support this like crazy. You gotta love the potential irony, right?

The last step is machine guns. While I fully support private ownership without NFA restriction, it’s gonna be a tough sell. Yes, you and I know that aimed semi-automatic fire is generally more effective and efficient, but average Jane and Joe listen to the hysteria on CNN. I fear we’ll need a grass roots awakening where people start paying more attention to current affairs than affairs on reality TV. Maybe that’ll happen, but I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, let’s start the push to chip away at the NFA. Remember, write your Congress Cabbages about your support of the Hearing Safety Act. That’s the grease on the skids to get rid of the equally ridiculous SBR and SBS restrictions with our Gun Control Act. It can work if we push it.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • LG January 16, 2017, 11:42 am

    Removing “suppressors” from the NFA is a necessary and intelligent first step toward getting rid of the NFA. Even in Socialist Western Europe, such as France for example where 22 carbines are available without a permit suppressors for said carbines are equally available over the counter and without any permit. So now if it’s not a threat to them comrades why is it one for us ?
    What I personally would wish even more that the liberalization of shoulder weapons and removable stocks to pistols. Really when is last time any crime was committed with a Mauser C96 WITH a stock attached to it, or a Colt SAA 1873 , or a P08 or a Browning HP ?

  • SabreBlade December 30, 2016, 4:35 pm

    Listen you people keep voting those liberal idiots in and they pass these stupid laws then stop whining about it.
    You want change then vote in the people that will represent the majority’s opinion (like yours).
    If you didn’t vote for them, then next time do your part and muscle up the votes to beat the other guys.
    Otherwise after next election, you will be whining again.

  • Jae December 22, 2016, 12:31 pm

    I didn’t have time to scroll through and read every comment so, sorry if someone already corrected.
    I have no idea where you heard you cannot have a .223 AR in Maryland. YES our gun laws blow goats (I obviously reside in MD) but there are no caliber restrictions applying to .223 AR platform rifles. The only restrictions we have are, NO flare launchers, ONLY heavy barrel uppers, NO folding stocks with flash hiders or vice versa, and barrels length must be at or above 16″ without removable attachments.

  • Hawk Seeos October 20, 2016, 1:53 am

    Practical blog post – Incidentally if people are interested in a TREC 36-8 , my business partner discovered a fillable form here https://goo.gl/lyrMPa

  • Sharky September 10, 2016, 2:20 am

    Hilarious article. \”double-ply bill with extra absorbency and wiping effectiveness\”. Well done.

  • law dawg August 18, 2015, 12:46 am

    I like the idea of suing the politically motivated congress and Senate….lets start with obama, biden, holder, pelozi, the clintons, Reid, boxer, fienstein, Bloomberg, and any anti gun politicians that oppose the 2nd amendment…. The law abiding citizen s in this country have to stop the injustice that the obama regime and followers have committed. The only way change can take place is by voting or impeaching these incompetent uninformed crack heads out office…. They have done a tremendous disservice to the country and the law abiding citizens. God bless America.

  • loupgarous August 17, 2015, 1:17 pm

    I favor a two-pronged approach.
    It’s curious, but true, that many gun-grabbers in Congress are dirty politicians. They like to break laws themselves. San Fran Nan and her staff were up to their armpits in insider trading; but no one at DoJ seems to have noticed. Barney Frank, when he disgraced Congress with his presence, let a male friend run an escort service from his office in the House… where were the racketeering indictments (unfortunately, even in an area like metro Washington where you cross state lines without stepping off rapid transit, the Mann Act didn’t apply because that only affects interstate transportation of WOMEN for immoral purposes)?
    Simply insisting that every time a Jackass Party Member of Congress breaks the law, he or she goes to Eglin AFB’s “Club Fed” reduces the number of upright, stalwart opponents of gun rights.

    After all, getting gun rights reinstated in this country is a numbers game. The fewer opponents of the Second Amendment in Congress, the easier that ought to be.

  • Jim August 17, 2015, 10:04 am

    I sold a new Sig P516 with Sigtac Brace because it was on the edge of the NFA rules and the new Texas Open Carry Law will require pistols to be in a holster. For that defeated the purpose of the P516 as an Open Carry Pistol in Texas. It was everything one could ask for in accuracy and reliability but both state and federal laws made it impractical for legal Open Catty in Texas.

    Federal and state laws remain confusing and stupid. I personally doubt that there will be a change in the Texas Legislature or in the U.S. Congress.

  • Jay August 17, 2015, 8:12 am

    Nicely written article, now’s the time for action, “Get-er Done” This country has to be turned around from the course it’s own or we will all just become tax paying government drones!

  • John August 17, 2015, 6:36 am

    Maybe someone could create a website containing an action board that would have pre-written letters. Something like the NumbersUSA site. You sign up and it will automatically add your name, and send it to your state representative. Then they could be blasted with faxes and emails.

  • David Jones August 17, 2015, 6:14 am

    I think the key, at least for suppressors, is to continue to spread the word state by state to get them legal everywhere and also to, in all states, find a coalition of the right and left. In my own state of Vermont, I had been asking my state representative to put forward a bill to legalize suppressors (they were illegal in VT—one of our few gun laws and pretty weird for a state that has always allowed concealed carry without a permit). He was a Democrat who was held by many people to be generally supportive of restrictions on firearms. However, as a physician, he saw the benefits of hearing protection, the ability for shooters (particularly at ranges) to generate fewer noise complaints (particularly at ranges) and the ability for hunters to make more accurate shots. All good things, even if you aren’t a big fan of firearms. Ultimately, while he had put forward a bill that completely legalized suppressors, he allied with a Republican who had a more limited bill (legal for 2 years but not legal to hunt with) that they felt would be more easily passed, and they got it through. I truly believe that while there are zealots at both ends of the argument, we might be able to find enough common ground even with some we might be surprised to find as allies. We just need to do this thoughtfully hope we find enough open minds out there.

    • Marc Weiss August 17, 2015, 10:24 am

      I really believe that the noise issue should be part of the mainstream acceptance of suppressors around the country.
      Hearing loss is incremental and its very important to be range friendly by reducing noise, especially to new and non shooters.

  • Will Drider August 13, 2015, 12:55 am

    EXECELLENT ARTICLE!
    Congress has passed legislation before without reading or understanding what it contains. Pelosi did it with bamalama-care. I’m just waiting for the first case on Sig brace shouldering/manufacturing a a SBR. It should be as enlightening as the JFK magic bullet was to ballistics and the laws of physics. If you follow the progression of ATF “logic”, firing a handgun with two hands is also a violation as the definition says: designed to be fired with one hand. ATF 06 Ltr on Adding a verticle foreward grip on a handgun, uses his same flawed logic. Which was slapped down by a Magistrate Judge as a pistol with a rifled barrel can not be a AOW per definition in the Law. THE CHARGE WAS DROPPED!
    I can’t wait for further micronization of lazer technologies: No suppressors, no sears, no mags, no ammo or import restrictions. I just hope they don’t come in black.

  • pod August 12, 2015, 1:39 pm

    Suppressors could be removed from the NFA incrementally. First, recommend they are taken from the purview of the NFA, but retain the tax. The tax would be collected much like a sales tax. A shop sells 10 suppressors in a month, they owe the ATF $2000. Of course this would mean that the ATF would somehow have to keep track of what each FFL sells in terms of suppressors, but I guess the existing mechanisms by which firearms sales are tracked would suffice. The suppressor would be entered into the bound book, but there wouldn’t be a corresponding 4473 because no background check would be required for a can, hopefully.

    After a few years of non-NFA (but taxed) suppressor sales, maybe the tax issue could be addressed.

    • Al August 17, 2015, 1:39 pm

      I just waisted a few minutes reading all this imaginary crap. They need to spend the ink and time writing to hearing doctors and congressmen with examples of kids and adults with hearing damage due to target practice without a silencer.

      • Uncle Ruckus October 31, 2016, 9:17 pm

        Wear ear protection.

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude August 17, 2015, 5:53 pm

      Good attempt at solution oriented thinking, Pod, but still flawed. And your ‘hopefully’ attitude means nothing. Hope is not a viable strategy. And like everybody else, you’re still way off the cure track. The original idea of the 200. stamp fee back in 1934 was to make it virtually impossible for the average Hank Horseshoe to afford a military or ‘gangsta’ style dangerous weapon. Even Pistols, especially automatics like the 1911s at the time were also slated to be on the NFA list but due to the fact that it would be an impossible task to track everybody who owned one, since it was the standard weapon of most people after the shotgun and there was no massive NSA spying and virtual registration and instant tracking and location as there is today, the notion was dropped and just the ‘nasty’ stuff was prohibited. If you equate the differentiation in inflationary prices today, the 200. tax fee amounted back then to what would be around 20K today. Also still pretty prohibited for the average person now if the original 200 dollar fee kept up with the inflated times. Why it hasn’t isn’t that much of a mystery. They were actually thinking about raising the stamp fees to fifty grand in the 80’s but that would stir up claims of usurious attempts at ripping off the civilians just because they can. So the solution was brainstromed in 1986 when they simply banned any new manufacture of full auto guns for the general public.

      The bitch slap to our freedom on this one is they slipped this machine gun ban in on a bill…THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO PROHIBIT REGISTRATION of private ownership! bwahahahahaha!

      This, of course, solved the prohibitive tax pricing problem for the government because it instantly made even dirt cheap mass produced guns like a 9mm Sten sub gun or a Mac-10 go for thousands if you could find one. Still pretty prohibitive for the average homeboy gunslinger. 6 of one way, half dozen of the other way to make it too expensive and restrictive to own a machine gun, SBR, or silencer.

      The point is that if gun control wasn’t such a big election deal in the coming months the ATF would already be hell bent on enforcing all manner of newly created ‘Administrative Fiat gun prohibition Mandates’ that will be up to your lawyer and your bank account to resist that will make this arm brace/stock issue seem like gift from heaven. Especially now with the latest dictatorial decree allowing the Secretary of State to unilaterally do her own subjective determination on who and how anybody is aiding and abetting terrorists so that they can confiscate their passports forthwith, and no doubt put them on a terrorist watch list which will soon be, if not inclusively interpreted already’ on the illegal form 4473.

      Last year it was illegal raids and seizures on the 80% receiver manufacturers. This year they’re setting everybody up for the ‘Oil Filter Kill’ by using their NSA snitches AT&T and Google to help in compiling lists of anybody who buys a simple inch hardware store threaded coupling unit that can’t shoot a bullet, muffle any sounds, or even be lethal if you threw at somebody, illegal if they don’t fill out the NFA forms and pay the tax stamp! Just the connector that screws into a freaking oil filter, is…all by its sonesome, ‘considered’, by BATF, to be….a silencer now!

      If this current regime’s party maintains control after the next election you might as well move to Australia or Canada After the New third Marxist column gets its gun grabbing way, because at least in those countries they’ll still let you have a BB gun if the velocity is under 500fps. Here you’ll be arrested–maybe even shot if you get the wrong cop–for a poptart shaped like a gun!

      So here’s the point. I could never understand the American mentality of the American people when it comes to bad laws and prohibitions. A psychologist might refer to it as a ‘bypass bias’. Where the primary tendency is to try to figure out ways to ‘get around something’ rather than actually confronting it head on, getting rid of the problem completely?

      So I’m sick and tired of all you people trying to scheme and scam on how to get around the laws and beat the system. We are not the fucking criminals THEY ARE! They’ve are and have been violating our inalienable rights upfront and in our bald headed faces, SINCE FUCKING 1934! What part of ‘SHALL NOT BE IN-Fucking-FRINGED don’t WE, the People, get? The 2/A says nothing about types of weapons, background checks, 1968 Gun Control Acts and registration to confiscate as needed.

      If you’re a moron criminal and uses a gun, a truck, gasoline, a chainsaw, a machete, or a baseball bat to hurt somebody illegally, then the punishment should be suited to the crime,; not the implement. The reason most of us will be prohibited from having guns in the future if they get their agenda down, will be because we LET the fuckers make laws that are illegal which enable Them to confiscate guns by falling for the public safety Lies. Cars kill more people than guns. Fistfights do also! Why aren’t ex felons prevented from owning cars or making a fist?

      Because a forward thinking totalitarian state requires that weapons be removed from the hands of citizens, not sticks or stones or wheels. Weapons, particularly firearms of military level would make it far too costly difficult to totally dictate to the people especially when it comes to stealing their private wealth.

      Because, grasshoppers, as counter-intuitive as this is going to sound because of your government’s social brainwashing, if they have a law that states that criminals cannot possess firearms permanantly, even after they paid their dues and are supposed to be rehabilitated and integrated back into society as law abiding citizens once again…

      …all they have to do then, is make enough people ‘criminals’ by enacting certain ‘applicable’ laws that almost anybody violates on any given day, and voila! poof! The effective and quite permanent disarmament of the populate. If there is really no such thing as a ‘law abiding citizen’ anymore because of felonious prohibition of firearms, as soon as most of the gun owners now can be made into ‘felons’, the better! I mean we don’t have to even arrest them if they just turn in their guns? Sort of like a ‘victimless’ crim, LOL! The more felons we have, the less guns there will be to resist us!

      So why don’t we all quit bullshitting around like wimps and start yanking on the chains of these feckless frauds we put in office? Amazingly The dogs in New York finally got their asses up off the Bloomberg nail they were laying on and started biting. There’s a movement growing in the big rotten apple to ‘REPEAL The ‘NEW YORK SAFE ACT’. Not pussysuck around it, not try to ‘bend the draconian’ prohibitions enough to avoid the law a little to smoogy-wooge feel like you can have a real SBR or Subgun,

      But an actual solution to a problem that will never go away and only get worse.

      The ONLY solution to regain our legal gun ownership status is to START A SERIOUS CONCENTRATED EFFORT TO REPEAL ALL ANTI-CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS STARTING WITH THE 34′ NFA AND THE GCA OF ’68! And immediately file a class action lawsuit against any congressman or senator who still supports these Unconstitutional laws. Otherwise we should all have the submissive decency to at least STFU with all these mewling excuses and whining complaints if we don’t have the real balls to be proactive.

      Meanwhile, Y’All should mosey down around your browser and check out an article by L. Gordon Crovits-Wall Street Journal 9/27/2009 “You Commit 3 Felonies a day”. And Also check how serious it is ‘becoming’ in The latest issue of SGNews in the ‘Knox Update’ ‘You Might Be a Gun Criminal’. (already?)

      Its only a matter of time before that flash bang crashes through your bedroom window and as what’s left of your eardrum drips out down the side of your neck with the blood, you’ll find yourself being smashed dwon to the floor and cuffed while they manhandle your half naked wife and loot through your home….

      if you don’t call your fucking moron legislator right now and ask him when, exactly, they are going to repeal all these Anti-Constitutional Marxist gun laws and Acts, you’ll get what you deserve, and deserve what you’ll get.

      “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime. This is not an exaggeration…” John Baker, Professor of Law.

      And their agenda based Laws are Anti-Constitutional! So instead of beating around the bush and trying to

    • WIDOWMAKER66 August 20, 2015, 4:07 pm

      WHY IS IT AMERICA IS ALWAYS ONE STEP BEHINE EVERY OTHER NATION IN MOVING UP . OUR MILITARY WEAPONS SHOULD BE TOP OF THE LINE IE: SUPPRESSED AUTO FIRE . SAME SAME FOR L.E. ! CUT THE CRAP WITH LONG TALK !

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