The National Firearms Act of 1934
By David Albert
Editor’s note: The original law requiring licensing and taxation of manufacturers, importers and dealers in firearms, regulating interstate transport of firearms and restricting private ownership of automatic weapons, short barrel rifles and weapons classified as Any Other Weapon by registration and taxation, among other things, was the result of the National Firearms Act of 1934. It has been modified and amended over the years but it is still the basis of the laws that affect us today. Intended to address the lawlessness of the “Gangster Era” and sponsored by the National Rifle Association, debate still rages today as to whether this Act should have been enacted in the first place; but that is a moot point. It IS the law and has affected all of us in the firearms community for the past 71 years. Reprinted below for the edification of our readers is an actual original notice containing the text of the 1934 National Firearms Act as approved by the President on June 26, 1934, and became law on July 26, 1934. Readers will note that there are differences in the language they see today, due to laws and changes in the intervening years. SAR reader David Albert supplied us with this original document to share the information with our readers. - Robert G. Segel
National Firearms Act
The President on June 26, 1934, approved an act (Pub, 474, 73d Congress) to provide for the taxation of manufacturers, importers and dealers in certain firearms and machine guns, to tax the sale or other disposal of such weapons, and to restrict importation and regulate interstate transportation thereof.
The new law went into effect on July 26. It was sponsored by the National Rifle Association as a substitute for a number of bills pending during the recent Congress.
The Department of Justice tried hard to secure legislation giving it control of firearms. However, the final enactment is directed against criminals and not against sportsmen.
It is an important law and the text is published, as follows:
- Be it enacted, etc., That for the purposes of this act -
- The term “firearm” means a shotgun or rifle having a barrel of less than 18 inches in length, or any other weapon, except a pistol or revolver, from which a shot is discharged by an explosive if such weapon is capable of being concealed on the person, or a machine gun, and includes a muffler or silencer for any firearm whether or not such firearm is included within the foregoing definition.
- The term “machine gun” means any weapon which shoots, or is designed to shoot, automatically or semi-automatically, more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.
- The term “person” includes a partnership, company, association or corporation, as well as a natural person.
- The term “continental United Stated” means the states of the United States and the District of Columbia.
- The term “importer” means any person who imports or brings firearms into the continental United States for sale.
- The term “manufacturer” means any person who is engaged within the continental United States in the manufacture of firearms, or who otherwise produces therein any firearm for sale or disposition.
- The term “dealer” means any person not a manufacturer or importer engaged within the continental United States in the business of selling firearms. The term “dealer” shall include wholesaler, pawnbrokers and dealers in used firearms.
- The term “interstate commerce” means transportation from any state or territory or district or any insular possession of the United States (including the Philippine Islands) to any other state or to the District of Columbia.
- The term “Commissioner” means the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
- The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of Treasury.
- The term “to transfer” or “transferred” shall include to sell, assign, pledge, lease, loan, give away or otherwise dispose of.
- Within 15 days after the effective date of this act, or upon first engaging in business, and thereafter on or before the 1st day of July of each year, every importer, manufacturer and dealer in firearms shall register with the collector of internal revenue for each district in which such business is to be carried on his name or style, principal place of business and places in such district, and pay a special tax at the following rates: Importers or manufacturers, $500 a year; dealers, other than pawnbrokers, $200 a year; pawnbrokers, $300 a year. Where the tax is payable on the 1st day of July in any year it shall be computed proportionately from the 1st day of the month in which the liability to the tax accrued to the 1st day of July following.
- It shall be unlawful for any person required to register under provisions of this section to import, manufacture or deal in firearms without having registered and paid the tax imposed by this section.
- There shall be levied, collected and paid upon firearms transferred in the continental United States a tax at the rate of $200 for each firearm, such tax to be paid by the transferor, and to be represented by appropriate stamps to be provided by the commissioner, with approval of the secretary, and the stamps herein provided shall be affixed to the order for such firearm, hereinafter provided for. The tax imposed by this section shall be in addition to any import duty imposed on such firearm.
- All provisions of law (including those regulating to special taxes, to the assessment, collection, remission and refund of internal revenue taxes, to the engraving, issuance, sale, accountability, cancellation and distribution of tax-paid stamps provided for in the internal-revenue laws, and to penalties) applicable with respect to the taxes imposed by section 1 of the act of December 17, 1914, as amended (U.S.C., Supp. VII, title 26, secs. 1040 and 1888), and all other provisions of the internal-revenue laws shall, insofar as not inconsistent with the provisions of this act, be applicable with respect to the taxes imposed by this act.
- Under such rules and regulations as the commissioner, with the approval of the secretary, may prescribe, and upon proof of the exportation of any firearm to any foreign country (whether exported as part of another article or not) with respect to which the transfer tax under this section has been paid by the manufacturer, the commissioner shall refund to the manufacturer the amount of the tax so paid, or, if the manufacturer waives all claim for the amount to be refunded, the refund shall be made to the exporter.
- It shall be unlawful for any person to transfer a firearm except in pursuance of a written order from the person seeking to obtain such article, on an application form issued in blank in duplicate for that purpose by the commissioner. Such order shall identify the applicant by such means of identification as may be prescribed by regulations under this act: Provided, that, if the applicant is an individual, such identification shall include fingerprints and a photograph thereof.
- The commissioner, with the approval of the secretary, shall cause suitable forms to be prepared for the purposes above mentioned, and shall cause the same to be distributed to collectors of internal revenue.
- Every person so transferring a firearm shall set forth in each copy of such order the manufacturer’s number or other mark identifying such firearm, and shall forward a copy of such order to the commissioner. The original thereof with stamps affixed shall be returned to the applicant.
- No person shall transfer a firearm which has previously been transferred on or after the effective date of this act, unless such person, in addition to complying with subsection (c), transfers therewith the stamp-affixed order provided for in this act for proof of payment of all taxes on such firearms.
- If the transfer of a firearm is exempted from the provisions of this act as provided in section 18 hereof, the person transferring such firearm shall notify the commissioner of the name and address of the applicant, the number or other mark identifying such firearm and the date of its transfer, and shall file with the commissioner such documents in proof thereof as the commissioner may by regulations prescribed.
- Importers, manufacturers and dealers who have registered and paid the tax as provided for in section 2 (a) of this act shall not be required to conform to the provisions of this section with respect to transactions in firearms with dealers or manufacturers if such records and make such tax, but shall keep such records and make such reports regarding such transactions as may be prescribed by regulations under this act.
- Within 60 days after the effective date of this act every person possessing a firearm shall register, with the collector of the district in which he resides, the number or other mark identifying such firearm, together with his name, address, place where such firearm is usually kept, and place of business or employment, and, if such person is other than a natural person, the name and home address of an executive officer thereof: Provided, That no person shall be required to register under this section with respect to any firearm acquired after the effective date of, and in conformity with the provisions of, this act.
- Whenever on trial for a violation of section 6 hereof the defendant is shown to have or to have had possession of such firearm at any time after such period of 60 days without having registered as required by this section, such possession shall create a presumption that such firearm came into the possession of the defendant subsequent to the effective date of this act, but this presumption shall not be conclusive.
Sec. 6.It shall be unlawful for any person to receive or possess any firearm which has at any time been transferred in violation of section 3 or 4 of this act.Sec. 7.
- Any firearm which has at any time been transferred in violation of the provisions of this act shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture, and (except as provided in subsection
- , all the provisions of internal-revenue laws relating to searched, seizures and forfeiture of unstamped articles are extended to and made to apply to the articles taxed under this act, and the persons to whom this act applies.
- In the case of the forfeiture of any firearm by reason of a violation of this act: No notice of public sale shall be required; no such firearm shall be sold at public sale; if such firearm is in the possession of any officer of the United States except the secretary, such officer shall deliver the firearm to the secretary, and the secretary may order such firearm destroyed or may sell such firearm to any state, territory or possession (including the Philippine Islands), or political subdivision thereof, or the District of Columbia, or retain it for the use of the Treasury Department or transfer it without charge to any executive department or independent establishment of the Government for use by it.
- Each manufacturer and importer of a firearm shall identify it with a number or other identification mark approved by the commissioner, such number or mark to be stamped or otherwise placed thereon in a manner approved by the commissioner.
- It shall be unlawful for anyone to obliterate, remove, change or alter such number or other identification mark. Whenever on trial for a violation of this subsection the defendant is shown to have or to have had possession of any firearm upon which such number or mark shall have been obliterated, removed, changed or altered, such possession shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction, unless the defendant explains such possession to the satisfaction of the jury.
Sec. 9. Importers, manufacturers and dealers shall keep such books and records and render such returns in relation to the transactions in firearms specified in this act as the commissioner, with the approval of the secretary, may by regulations require.
Sec. 10. (a) No firearm shall be imported or brought into the United States or any territory under its control or jurisdiction (including the Philippine Islands), except that, under regulations prescribed by the secretary, any firearm may be so imported or brought in when (1) the purpose thereof is shown to be lawful and (2) such firearm is unique or of a type which can not be obtained within the United States or such territory. (b) It shall be unlawful (1) fraudulently or knowingly to import or bring any firearm into the United States or any territory under its control or jurisdiction (including the Philippine Islands), in violation of the provisions of this act; or (2) knowingly to assist in so doing; or (3) to receive, conceal, buy, sell or in any manner facilitate the transportation, concealment or sale of any such firearm after being imported or brought in, knowing the same to have been imported or brought in contrary to law. Whenever on trial for a violation of this section the defendant is shown to have or to have had possession of such firearm, such possession shall be deemed sufficient evidence to authorize conviction unless the defendant explains such possession to satisfaction of the jury.
Sec. 11. It shall be unlawful for any person who is required to register as provided in section 5 hereof and who shall not have so registered, or any other person who has not in his possession a stamp-affixed order as provided in section 4 hereof, to ship, carry or deliver any firearm, in interstate commerce.
Sec. 12. The commissioner, with the approval of the secretary, shall prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary for carrying the provisions of this act into effect.
Sec. 13. This act shall not apply to the transfer of firearms (1) to the United States Government, any state, territory or possession of the United States, or to any political subdivision thereof, or to the District of Columbia; (2) to any peace officer or any federal officer designated by regulations of the commissioner; (3) to the transfer of any firearm which is unserviceable and which is transferred as a curiosity or ornament.
Sec. 14. Any person who violates or fails to comply with any of the requirements of this act shall, upon conviction, be fined not more that $2,000 or be imprisoned for not more than five years, or both, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 15. The taxes imposed by paragraph (a) of section 600 of the revenue act if 1926 (U.S.C., (illegible word), title 26, sec. 1120) and by section (illegible word) of the revenue act of 1923 (47 Stat., 169, 264), shall not apply to any firearm on which the tax provided by section 3 of this act has been paid.
Sec. 16. If any provisions of this act, or the application thereof to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of the act, and the application of such provision to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected thereby.
Sec. 17This act shall take effect on the 30th day after the date of its enactment.
Sec. 18. This act may be cited as the “National Firearms Act.”
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