In the wake of horrific shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and elsewhere, the need to address gun violence has become paramount. Calls to introduce new controls on handguns and semi-automatic firearms - the weapons of choice, it seems, for large-scale carnage - has reached a new urgency.
But rather than introducing new laws to deal with these threats, existing laws can do so quite well, with only minimal changes required.
More details after the jump.
Since 1934, the National Firearms Act, has placed significant restrictions on various types of weapons such as machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and short-barrel rifles.
Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 is a revision of the National Firearms Act of 1934, and pertains to machine guns, short or "sawed-off" shotguns and rifles, and so-called "destructive devices" (including grenades, mortars, rocket launchers, large projectiles, and other heavy ordnance). Acquisition of these weapons is subject to prior approval of the Attorney General, and federal registration is required for possession. Generally, a $200 tax is imposed upon each transfer or making of any Title II weapon.
In order to legally posess a Title II weapon, an extensive background check is required (roughly equivalent to what is required for a lower-level "Secret" security clearance), as well as registration of the firearm and payment of a $200 tax on purchase, transfer or manufacture.
In addition, violation of the Act is a federal felony, with up to 10-year prison sentences and forfeiture of the weapon.
As recent events have demonstrated, recognizing the role of handguns and semi-automatic firearms in America's gun violence epidemic by adding them to the Title II category is long overdue. By passing legislation to do so, under the framework of existing laws, the problems with having to craft an entirely new bill would be avoided.
It's time that we demand that our legislators do so.