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RELEASE: Giffords Applauds Introduction of Legislation to Regulate Assault Rifles Under NFA 

February 15, 2019— Today Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, applauded Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) for introducing the NFA Amendments Act of 2019. This legislation places semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines 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.

“Time and time again, our country has watched in horror when weapons designed specifically for the battleground are used by dangerous people to devastate entire communities in a matter of minutes,” said David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor at Giffords and a retired ATF Special Agent of 25 years. “The easy availability of assault weapons has turned places that are supposed to be safe – schools, churches, concerts – into scenes of terror. The proposal put forward today by Congressman Deutch proves that is possible to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and better protect our communities by regulating assault rifles. Advancing this legislation is an important step towards building a safer America, and we look forward to working with Congress to get it passed.”

The most common variety of assault rifle, the AR-15, is the civilian version of the M16, a combat rifle designed for use by the United States military. The AR-15 and its many variants are a class of firearm marketed by the gun industry in an attempt to reverse a decline in consumer demand for guns during the 1980s. Semi-automatic assault rifles offer a lethal combination: rifle ammunition capable of penetrating bullet-proof vests, coupled with the capability to accept detachable magazines that can hold as many as 100 rounds. For this reason, semi-automatic assault weapons are frequently the guns of choice for individuals who carry out horrific public attacks, like those in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland, among others.

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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