As I write this the results of the 2012 election are rolling in. While it is too early to tell who will win, I would like to address a common concern I hear regarding the candidates and the National Firearms Act.
Many of my clients are concerned that a large win by gun control politicians would result in further firearm restrictions. Specifically, there are concerns that the ATF will stop approving Form 4 transfers. I agree that a win will result in new gun control measures at least being attempted, but I do not believe the ATF will arbitrarily, or at executive decree, delay, postpone, or stop approving transfers.
The ATF is created by and enforces the NFA and the Gun Control Act (GCA). If the agency openly disregards these acts then the ATF and its personnel will be subject to lawsuits for failing to follow the law. I don’t have great faith in this process, but the fighting and distraction this would create would not help the ATF. (Remember, the ATF has not had a permanent leader since Bush was in office, and the agency suffers greatly from a lack of leadership.) Therefore, the ATF is likely to avoid any polarizing political actions not supported by law, and will most likely continue on its current path.
Congress itself is unlikely to pass any legislation affecting the NFA. For Democrats, this area represents a small gain that may actually serve as a Pyrrhic victory. The current prohibition on machine guns reminds all firearm owners of the eventual goals of gun control. Gun control politicians are more likely to hurt their cause than make any significant gains if they further restrict, regulate, or attack the firearms controlled by the NFA. (It is worth remembering that the ‘assault weapons’ ban did not affect the NFA, and that weapons matching the ‘assault weapons’ definition could be bought if they were also NFA firearms. Some northern states prohibit the sale of new ‘assault weapons’ but explicitly permit the sale / import of any firearm registered under the NFA!) So even if we see an ‘assault weapons’ ban raised from the dead, I doubt we will see any further restrictions on NFA weapons.
As a final thought, it is worth thinking about the pressure building in the machine gun market. Prices are high, and rising, because many responsible collectors would like to own these weapons. The machine gun ban itself was a last minute voice vote amendment to an otherwise positive FOPA. If a gun control law was being drafted within congress I would highly encourage all to contact their senators and representatives about an amendment to remove the machine gun restriction. Such a rider is likely to kill any bill before it ever gets a chance to be voted on. (I highly doubt that the machine gun ban will be repealed, but we can always try.)
Local elections and state legislators are more likely to have an affect on your gun rights in this election. South Carolina attempted an overhaul of their carry laws last year, but the politicians were unable to close the deal. Perhaps with a new group of candidates there will be more luck this year. Here’s to watching the election results roll in.