Press Release

Giffords Applauds Introduction of Legislation to Regulate Armor-Piercing Handguns

February 15, 2019 — Today Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, applauded Congresswoman Val Demings (D-FL) for introducing the Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2019. This legislation places armor-piercing handguns under the National Firearms Act (NFA), the 85-year old framework that regulates particularly dangerous weapons like machine guns, short-barreled rifles, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers.

“Since 1934, this country has had an effective way to regulate particularly deadly guns: the National Firearms Act,” said David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords and a retired ATF Special Agent of 25 years. “It was created in response to lethal gun violence against law enforcement officials in the 1920s, and it’s been remarkably effective ever since. It’s only fitting that today a former chief of police is working to update it and better protect her peers. I’m grateful to Congresswoman Demings for her commitment to our country’s law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

Short-barreled rifles are unusually dangerous because of their concealability, accuracy, and ability to penetrate body armor. They are regulated under the NFA for these reasons. Certain newer model pistols, however, are designed to be just as dangerous but manage to avoid NFA regulation. These pistols can fire rifle rounds capable of penetrating body armor but are concealable like handguns. Armor-piercing pistols escape the NFA’s definition of short-barreled rifles because they are not designed to be fired from the shoulder; nevertheless, their short length paired with the number of rounds they fire means they present a similar, if not identical, threat to public safety.

About the National Firearms Act

The National Firearms Act (NFA), enacted in 1934, was the first federal regulation on the manufacture, transfer, and possession of firearms. In order to possess firearms that fall under the NFA, individuals must undergo a background check process that includes the submission of photo identification and fingerprints, and then must register the firearm with ATF. Individuals must also pay a $200 transfer tax, an amount that has not changed since the NFA was established in 1934. As of February of 2018, over 5.5 million NFA firearms were registered with ATF.

Because of the NFA’s effective regulatory regime, weapons regulated by the NFA are rarely used in crime. But few firearms fall within the NFA’s purview. Of the 322,078 firearms traced in the United States during 2017, less than 1% were machine guns and silencers not registered with ATF. While the gun lobby often claims that gun laws do not work because criminals do not follow the law, the NFA has effectively deterred violent criminals from using these particularly lethal weapons.

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