View Full Version : 1934 National Firearms Act hearings transcript

12-21-2012, 9:38 PM
I ran across this today and found it interesting. Some pretty significant changes were made to the original draft of the NFA thanks to Karl Frederick of the NRA. It's interesting to note that politicians back then knew just as much about firearms as they do now. :D All-in-all it's a very interesting read. It's interesting to note that no one truly argues the right to keep and bear arms. It's also interesting to note that they do not discuss the term prohibition but regulation. Considering the NFA was passed shortly after the 21st Amendment, I think they knew full well where a complete prohibition on firearms would get them. Here's some interesting excerpts from the transcripts.


Definition of the term "machine gun" was meant to include any firearm that could hold and fire 12 rounds either automatically or semi-automatically.
The term “machine gun” means any weapon designed to shoot automatically or semiautomatically twelve or more shots without reloading.

Mr. Frederick's testimony on the subject. Some of you will notice they did adopt his definition.
Mr. COOPER. The guns to which you have referred, how many of those are now manufactured with the type of magazine mentioned by you, firing less than 12 shots?

Mr. FREDERICK. I cannot answer your question, I do not know. But I say that it would be a perfectly simple thing for smaller magazines to be prepared.

Mr. COOPER. I understand you say that it is possible for such type of a weapon to be constructed, but I am asking you what the situation is now with reference to the manufacture and sale of the type of weapon to which you refer.

Mr. FREDERICK. I cannot answer that, because I do not know. The definition which I suggest is this:

[“]A machine gun or submachine gun as used in this act means any firearm by whatever name known, loaded or unloaded, which shoots automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.[”]

The distinguishing feature of a machine gun is that by a single pull of the trigger the gun continues to fire as long as there is any ammunition in the belt or in the magazine. Other guns require a separate pull of the trigger for every shot fired, and such guns are not properly designated as machine guns. A gun, however, which is capable of firing more than one shot by a single pull of the trigger, a single function of the trigger, is properly regarded, in my opinion, as a machine gun.

A discussion about the constitutionality of the NFA
Mr. DICKINSON. I will ask you whether or not this bill interferes in any way with the right of a person to keep and bear arms or his right to be secure in his person against unreasonable search; in other words, do you believe this bill is unconstitutional or that it violates any constitutional provision?

Mr. FREDERICK. I have not given it any study from that point of view. I will be glad to submit in writing my views on that subject, but I do think it is a subject which deserves serious thought.

Mr. DICKINSON. My mind is running along the lines that it is constitutional.

Mr. MCCORMACK. You have been living with this legislation or following this type of legislation for quite a number of years.

Mr. FREDERICK. Yes; I have.

Mr. MCCORMACK. The fact that you have not considered the constitutional aspect would be pretty powerful evidence, so far as I am concerned, that you did not think that question was involved.

Mr. FREDERICK. No; I would not say that, because my view has been that the United States has no jurisdiction to attack this problem directly. I think that under the Constitution the United States has no jurisdiction to legislate in a police sense with respect to firearms. I think that is exclusively a matter for State regulation, and I think that the only possible way in which the United States can legislate is through its taxing power, which is an indirect method of approach, through its control over interstate commerce, which was perfectly proper, and through control over importations. I have not considered the indirect method of approach as being one which was to be seriously considered until the bill began to be talked about.

Mr. MCCORMACK. You would not seriously consider that there was
any constitutional question involved in this bill, would you?

Mr. FREDERICK. I think this bill goes pretty far for a revenue bill in the direction of setting up what are essentially police regulations.

An interesting discussion that many 2A proponents have made before. Apparently it's not a new concept, nor have the percentages flipped in the favor of firearms.
Mr. LEWIS. Mr. Frederick, the automobile is a dangerous, even deadly instrument, but never intentionally a deadly instrument, of course. States uniformly have taken notice of the danger to the innocent pedestrian and others involved in the use of the automobile. They have set up around the privilege of its ownership and operation a complete regulatory system consistent with reasonable rights to the use of the automobile. Approaching the subject of firearms, would you not consider that society is under the same duty to protect the innocent that it is with regard to the automobile and that with a view to the attainment of that result, the person who wishes the privilege of bearing firearms should submit to the same regulations as rigid as the automobile owner and driver is required to accept?

Mr. FREDERICK. You have raised a very interesting analogy, one which, to my mind, has a very decided bearing upon the practicability and the desirability of this type of legislation. Automobiles are a much more essential instrument of crime than pistols. Any police officer will tell you that. They are much more dangerous to ordinary life, because they kill approximately 30,000 people a year. The extent, so far as I know, to which the Government, or the Congress, has attempted to legislate is with respect to the transportation in interstate commerce of stolen vehicles, which apparently has accomplished very useful results. The rest of the legislation is left to the States, and in its effect and in its mode of enforcement, it is a wholly reasonable and suitable approach, because, if I want a license for my car I can get it in 20 minutes, by complying with certain definite and well-known regulations.

Mr. LEWIS. And qualifying.

Mr. FREDERICK. And qualifying, yes, sir. I do not have to prove I am a driver in order to get an automobile license. I do in order to get a personal driver's license, of course. Complying with the regulations, I get that automatically, as a matter of course. If I want a pistol license, and I have had one for a number of years in New York, it takes me 6 weeks to 4 months to get that license, and it costs me an enormous amount of personal bother and trouble. The difficulty in a sense is in the manner of administration and we know that that which is oppressive can be put into the administration much more effectively than into the law; it is the way the thing works. I have no objection, personally, to having my fingerprints taken, because my own fingerprints have been taken many times, but I do object to being singled out with the criminal element and having my fingerprints taken and put in the Bureau of Criminal Identification because I like to use a pistol or because I may need one for self-defense, whereas automobile owners are not fingerprinted and are, as a class, a much more criminal body, from the standpoint of percentage, than pistol licensees.

12-21-2012, 10:30 PM
very interesting read. I wish he would have fought this a little harder though.

12-22-2012, 7:11 AM
Cool post, interesting stuff. Wish there was no NFA though.

Mulay El Raisuli
12-22-2012, 7:58 AM
very interesting read. I wish he would have fought this a little harder though.

Well, he was the 'first guy through the door' (so to speak) with no previous experience. Hard to fault him.

The Raisuli