By Jeffrey Folloder
The Presidency of Donald Trump is a little over a month old at the time of the writing of this article. Thus far, President Trump has signed a dozen executive orders. And while the Second Amendment community holds high hopes for progress on rolling back restrictions on firearms ownership, none of Trump’s ink-signed edicts addresses gun control. What do we have now?
If sales at the recent SHOT Show are any indicator (and they usually are), it would appear that the pressure is off and that the fear associated with the prospect of another Clinton presidency has vanished. Dealers have stopped laying in supplies of at-risk firearms, and customers have stopped their anticipatory binge buying. The prices of AR-style weapons are in free fall. The “business” of the firearms world is ironically lamenting the exit of the salesman of the decade, President Obama. On the NFA side, things are unsettled. Suppressor exhibitors at SHOT reported huge crowds and low orders. Many pointed to a general reaction by the customer community to the reintroduction of the Hearing Protection Act (HPA). It would seem that customers are convinced that President Trump will be signing the HPA in a matter of moments and that there is no reason to buy a suppressor now, when they will soon be able to do it without the inconvenience of NFA paperwork or tax. It would seem as though those customers have forgotten the lessons learned in grade school civics.
The HPA is a sorely needed beginning to a conversation that the legislators of this country need to start. But right now, it is just a start. Our friends at the American Suppressor Association have embarked upon a Herculean journey, and we applaud them and support them for their needed efforts. But make no mistake: this isn’t a done deal. The HPA is in committee right now, and it has to get out of committee to get voted upon in the House. If it does get out of committee in the House, prospects are good that there are enough votes to get it approved. Then it is on to the Senate where things get trickier. Assuming it gets out of committee there and makes it to the Senate floor for debate, 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture, a fancy term for ending debate. The Senate cannot vote until debate is ended. There are 52 Republican Senators. Assuming that all of them vote to invoke cloture (not certain), are there another half dozen+ Democrats that would go along with it? And if that happens, any differences in the House and Senate bills would have to be ironed out and reapproved before it gets to Trump’s desk. That’s a long road that is not likely to be traversed in the next few weeks. So, go out and buy a suppressor today.
In other news, there is a “We the People” petition demanding the repeal of the 1934 National Firearms Act. Although it started very slowly, the petition received around 140,000 signatures by its cut off of February 19th. That is enough to require a White House response. We need to keep in mind that those signatures represent about a 20th of one percent of the voting population. More importantly, the White House cannot wave away legislation created by Congress and signed into law by a President. Repeal happens through legislative process or judicial invalidation. A similar petition to repeal the Hughes amendment has not generated enough signatures to even warrant a response. The demands for repeal on that effort represent just over a one hundredth of a percent of the voting public. Is that constituency enough to warrant the attention of Congress?
Change is going to come slowly, and it is not going to come from online petitions and Facebook rallies. It is going to come from disciplined interaction with the political and legislative systems. The players who actually have the wherewithal and gravitas to achieve these victories know that this is most certainly a long-form engagement with no quick victories. And even though we hear the cries from purists … “What part of ‘Shall not be infringed’ do you not understand?” We know that political and legislative change almost always requires compromise. There will always be those who balk at those compromises.
The NFATCA was instrumental in eliminating the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) approval signature requirement for NFA making and transfer. We fought hard to prevent the previous White House from turning our original petition on its ear (our thanks to attorneys Stephen Halbrook and John Frazer and the many others who helped redirect the DOJ), and the final result of the rule making process looks substantially similar to what we originally proposed. Yes, some NFA applicants are faced with a slight increase in inconvenience in that every responsible person (those who may have lawful possession) must abide by the same identification and background check process. The net result is that the surge of applications that sought to get in under the old rules and the recent, smaller surge of applicants who could not get a CLEO signature and did not want to mess with acquisition through a legal entity is mostly over. Form submission rates are returning to similar levels to what was experienced before the announcement of the new rule. The NFA world wasn’t “killed,” and there are an additional 1,000,000 NFA items on the registry as a result. Many manufacturers prospered as a result of these surges (and many failed to plan for the inevitable regression to the mean). But one thing is absolutely certain: The NFATCA goal of more NFA weapons available for more people, more often, owned in whatever way the people want is accomplished. Yet there is still more to do. We will continue to work with those people and organizations that will continue to help us increase those opportunities. We thank you for your continued support.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N4 (May 2017)|