Cato files lawsuit challenging NFA ban on new manufacture

CatoSeveral years ago, Nick Bronsozian was charged with possession of an unregistered machinegun under a tax law statute. The provision in question, 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d), says that in order to have a machinegun registered, a tax must be paid on it. Simple enough, right? Bronsozian didn’t pay his tax. Case closed. That’s what the government argued anyway, but the situation is more complicated than that.

A subsequently enacted law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(o), prevents the government from registering and accepting tax payments on new machineguns. So Bronsozian was charged and convicted of a felony for not paying a tax that the government would not allow him to pay. If that strikes you as odd, it’s probably because you’ve read the Constitution.

This is the ace-in-the-hole lawsuit I have been expecting would be filed as soon as we had enough justices on the Supreme Court to have a chance at winning a vote. It's basically arguing that you can't charge someone for not paying a tax (and registering your NFA firearm) if you aren't allowed to pay the tax. It's a completely common sense argument that strikes at the nature of the NFA as an end-run around the Constitution.

Because the laws which regular firearms would blatantly violate the 2nd Amendment if written to achieve their true purpose, they were instead instituted as tax laws, with taxes set at prohibitive rates for the time period ($200 in the 1930s) and eventually a ban on new tax transactions (1986). It wasn't that machine guns were made illegal; you just had to pay the tax. And you weren't allowed to pay the tax. (Existing, registered machine guns were grandfathered). The idea is to ban gradually, over time, as the limited supply wore out and no new supply became available.

It was always a constitutional problem that made the NFA laws vulnerable. But there was no point taking it to the Supreme Court until there was a chance of success. With honest justices, this is a winning argument. We just haven't had enough honest justices... until, maybe, now.

I'll be watching this one. This is how the Heller case started.

This entry was published Fri Jun 28 08:31:52 CDT 2019 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2019-06-28 08:31:52.0. [Tweet]

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