Well Regulated: The NFA hearings (3/6) – 4/18/1934

The April 4th hearings contained testimony from Milton A. Reckford, Karl T. Frederick, Joseph B. Keenan, W.B. Ryan, Charles V. Imlay, John Thomas Taylor, and Seth Gordon. Each of these men was an influential figure in their respective fields. Despite such considerable knowledge, not a single individual stood up fully for Americans’ Second Amendment rights. By far the least objectionable testimony came from Karl T. Frederick who, although willing to give up important ground in preserving gun rights, at least had an understanding of firearms technology and sought to reduce the burdensome regulations in some regards. Although the lackadaisical attitude adopted by the committee and speakers towards gun rights is disheartening, being aware of the history of the NFA is crucial to understanding the gun rights battle of today. The National Firearms Act was the first federal gun control law, and the American people are still suffering under it today – this series aims to explain why such an egregious and oppressive law was ever allowed to be implemented.


Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)/Clement C. Dickinson (MO-D)/Allen T. Treadway (MA-R)/Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)/Roy O. Woodruff (MI-R)/James A. Frear (WI-R)

So many representatives listed in the heading for this section – multiple congressmen asked similar questions when trying to clarify in what role he was appearing. A significant portion of Milton Reckord’s brief testimony was spent on attempting to clarify which organization or organizations he was speaking on behalf of, but a more detailed summary is not useful. This issue was complicated by Reckford’s conflicting statements. For example, at one point, he says that he is not testifying in any government capacity, but two replies later states that he is representing the National Guards of all states (by virtue of his position in the Adjutants General Association of the United States). In order to be as clear as possible, it will be explicitly stated which organization Reckord is speaking on behalf of at any given time.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Reckord stated that in his capacity as Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Adjutants General Association of the United States, he was appearing in opposition to the bill. Upon request by Representative Frear, Reckord specified that he had been verbally instructed to advise the Committee to reject the bill by General Immell.

Allen T. Treadway (MA-R)

Treadway briefly asked for further clarification on the issue of why Reckford had not been given official instruction to appear in front in opposition of the bill by the Adjutants General Association. Reckford specified that the Adjutants General had convened the week prior, and that since the bill had not been introduced until the 11th, he could not review the issue with the association’s leadership. However, Reckford was confident that he was accurately representing the association, saying that “Had they known about it I could easily have gotten a resolution directing me to come here in opposition to it.” (pg 35)

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

The chairman asked how Reckford could assume he was accurately representing the interests of the Adjutant Generals without having met with them and discussed the matter in person, to which Reckford replied “I know those men…We all think more or less alike on the subject of firearms. There are so many provisions in this bill that are not good…I am confident that had this bill been before the convention last Monday or Tuesday, I could have had such a commitment.” (pg 35-36)

Daniel A. Reed (NY-R)

Reed began by asking if the provisions of the NFA which Reckord was in opposition to had appeared in previous legislation. The response was that while some provisions had been debated for a number of years (in different contexts) there were a number of provisions in the NFA which had only been come about 2 weeks to a month prior in an “unnumbered bill” in the Senate (pg 36). That such proposals as were/are contained in the NFA were able to come to fruition in such a short period of time is disturbing, but concerning in a different way is Reckord’s final statement to Congressman Reed:

“…the association I represent is absolutely favorable to reasonable legislation. We are responsible for the uniform firearms act being enacted into law by you gentlemen in the District of Columbia. It is on the books now. We are not obstructionists in any way. We want to help you. We offered to help; we carried that offer to the office of the Attorney General of the United States. We thought we were going to be called into conference to work with him. Instead of that, we stumbled upon an unknown bill in the Senate of the United States. We just have not been heard. That is the reason we are asking an opportunity to be heard now.” (pg 36)

Statements given by Reckord later indicate that the “association” being referred to here is the NRA (not the Adjutant Generals Association mentioned earlier). There is a term used in this statement by Reckord that is all too familiar to anyone familiar with gun-control efforts: “reasonable legislation”. Today, the phrase used is “common-sense gun control”, but the meaning is the same. Before going further, it must be stated that there is no such thing as “reasonable” or “common sense” gun control. The very concept is oxymoronic since the outlandish notion that regulating firearms is either morally tolerable or even effective at creating a safer society requires a lack of both reason and common sense. Whoever uses these terms is trying to convince the listener that a given proposal is both moderate and an obvious solution to the issue of violence, when nothing could be further from the truth. The full text of the Uniform Firearms Act mentioned by Reckord will be included at the end of this article, given that there was little information available online that would be readily usable to the average person. Finally, for more information on the positions taken by the Attorney General’s office, please refer to Part 2, which detailed the testimony of Attorney General Homer S. Cummings.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

The same issues brought up by Congressman Reed above were asked about again by Douohton, namely the NRA’s intention to discuss this legislation with the Attorney General, the organization’s efforts to help pass the Uniform Firearms Act, and that it “recognize[d] [this type of legislation’s] importance or necessity.” (pg 36) The last question asked by Douohton was on if there was a better organization or entity within the United States to construct legislation in response to the crime wave than the Justice Department, to which Reckord replied that “if this bill is an example, then I do not think they have approached the subject properly.” (pg 37)

Allen T. Treadway (MA-R)

Congressman Treadway continued the line of inquiry as to the NRA’s efforts to work with the Attorney General. Reckord said that the organization had chosen to invite Attorney General Cummings to its annual meeting in February 1934. The Attorney General could not attend, but had sent the aforementioned Assistant Attorney General Keenan, who even made a speech at the event after dinner. At the annual meeting, plans were made for Reckord, Keenan, and Karl Frederick (whose testimony immediately followed Reckord) to discuss the matter further. They met for three hours that Saturday, during which Keenan said that “he would prefer to go slowly and get proper legislation rather than to move rapidly and get something that was not just right.” (pg 37-38) However, this was the last that the NRA heard of such legislation until it was introduced to the House. Treadway specified that the bill was introduced by Hatton W. Sumners (TX-D) – who readers of Well Regulated will remember from the previous edition – and had been marked “by request” (pg 38). The final questions from Congressman Treadway were very interesting; he asked whether the introduction of the bill by Sumners had been requested by Keenan, whether it had been drafted by Keenan, and if it had been produced by the Attorney General’s office more generally, whether Keenan was aware of it. Reckord definitively stated that Keenan had both written the bill and instructed Sumners to introduce it to the House – that he was fully aware of everything.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

The chairman asked for Reckord to provide criticism of each of the provisions he objected to, and suggest alterations. Reckord deferred to Karl Frederick, the President of the National Rifle Association of America. Reckord also mentioned that Frederick was: vice president of the United States Revolver Association, member of the Campfire Club, a member of the New York Fish, Game, and Forest League, vice president of the New York Conservation Council, Inc., a former member of the Commission on Fire Arms Legislation of the National Crime Commission.


Opening Statement

Since Reckord had already given an overview of Frederick’s background, he began by describing his personal involvement in firearms legislation. Frederick said that he had studied the subject for over 15 years in conjunction with other organizations and individuals (specifically mentioning the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws) and helped to pass numerous laws on the state level. The president took credit for having drafted the Uniform Firearms Act of DC in 1920. In addition, Frederick also gave credit to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws which had appointed Charles V. Imlay (who testified later that day) to chair a subcommittee which studied gun control for seven years, and worked on the Uniform Firearms Act before it became law in DC. This law was also implemented in Pennsylvania and California, with portions being introduced as law elsewhere (Frederick mentioned New York, New Jersey, Indiana, and New Hampshire, but said that other states had introduced piecemeal versions of the Uniform Firearms act as well).

As was mentioned in Reckord’s testimony, the NFA was incredibly new legislation. So new in fact, that Frederick had not even read a printed version of the bill until he arrived in DC that morning. He elaborated that while he had only read the NFA itself a few hours prior, he had read earlier bills which were presented in the Senate, and notes on a similar House bill. This explanation was followed by another lamentation that the Attorney General had not consulted with the NRA, despite Keenan’s indications that they would be.

The only criticism Frederick was able to explain in his opening statement was on the definition of a machine gun, which he described as “wholly inadequate and unsatisfactory” (pg 39). More specifically, he took objection to the fact that, under the definition in the bill, an automatic or semi-automatic firearm which fires fewer than 12 rounds would not be a machine gun. Federal law currently defines machine guns based solely on function, which is what Frederick wanted. In support of this claim, he specifically cited the Thompson submachine gun as well as “the so-called “Browning” automatic rifle or the Monitor rifle, which is a somewhat similar weapon designed for police use” (pg 39) which both have semi-automatic and automatic fire settings, and which the bill would not regulate (provided that they used sub-12 round magazines). Presumably, the BAR referred to by Frederick is the M1918 or M1918a1 given that they were the variants produced for the US military up to that point. The Colt Monitor (also known as the R80) is also an interesting rifle to mention, especially since fewer than 125 Colt Monitors/R80s were ever sold, 90 of which went to the FBI, and the rest to South American governments.

An example of an M1918 BAR from WWI.
Photo credit: Ian McCollum/Forgotten Weapons

An example of a Colt Monitor, introduced in 1931 and formally adopted by the FBI in 1933.
Photo credit: Ian McCollum/Forgotten Weapons
Roy O. Woodruff (MI-R)

President Frederick was interrupted for a question by Congressman Woodruff on magazines. The congressman asked for verification that the limiting factor in how many rounds a machine gun could fire was the magazine, which Frederick provided. Woodruff then stated that “it is a very simple matter…to change the magazine or the clip or whatever they use to hold these cartridges, to meet any restrictions” (pg 40) and agreed with Frederick’s desire to alter the definition to be wider ranging. The word choice by Woodruff in this article demonstrates the terrifying lack of knowledge on the subject of firearms by the legislators. A clip and a magazine are two fundamentally different items with different purposes (loading ammunition into a magazine and feeding ammunition into the action of a firearm, respectively), but that he even said “or whatever” indicates a complete indifference for correct usage of the terminology.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Frear asked for the definition of a machine gun proposed by Frederick, but was interrupted by Jere Cooper (TN-D).

Jere Cooper (TN-D)

The first question by Cooper was on how many firearms were being produced (at that point) with sub-12 round magazines. While Frederick did not know, he did state that fabricating magazines to hold fewer than 12 rounds would be an easy task. Although not a comprehensive list, there are certain firearms which immediately spring to mind as examples of what the bill would define as machine guns if not for their capacity. The most famous rifle which comes to mind is of course the Remington Model 8, which was a long-recoil semi-automatic rifle designed by John Browning and introduced to the market in 1906. This rifle sticks out as a prime example of one firearm being considered a machine gun or not based solely off the magazine capacity. Factory Model 8s held five rounds in an internal magazine, but those adapted by the Peace Officers’ Equipment Co. utilized 15 round detachable magazines would be considered machine guns. Another example would be the Winchester Model 1907, a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .351SL, and which was fed by five, ten, or fifteen round detachable magazines. If the language of the NFA had not been changed, then an owner of a Model 1907 would be in possession of a machine gun when they used a 15-round magazine, but not one of the other factory-produced magazines. The Mauser M712 is another example of a machine gun (as currently defined) whose definition as per the original bill would vary, since the magazine held 10-rounds or 20 rounds. Very few, if any, M712s would have been in America in 1934 given that Mauser only began production of a select-fire C96 variant in the early-1930s to remain competitive in selling arms to China. There were of course several other firearms which would be in a similar situation, but these three examples will suffice to illustrate the issue.

After stating for the second time that he did not know about the contemporary manufacture of such weapons, Frederick provided his proposed alternative definition:

“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.” (pg 40)

which is very similar to the current definition of a machine gun (the current definition also includes additional qualifiers which have been excluded as they mainly relate to constructive intent):

“Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

Frederick expanded upon this by stating that he did not consider any semi-automatic firearm to be a machine gun.

Remington Model 8 chambered in .30 Remington.
Photo credit: Rock Island Auction Company

Remington Model 8 with a POE magazine conversion.
Photo credit: Gun Digest/Remington Society

Winchester Model 1907 with a “police style” extended magazine.
Photo credit: Rock Island Auction Company

Mauser M712 “Schnellfeuer” with a detachable stock/holster.
Photo credit: Rock Island Auction Company
Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Congressman Hill interjected to focus on the word choice of “single function of the trigger”, but he seemingly did not fully understand the concept of semi-automatic vs automatic, given his opening question:

“Would it be practicable to manufacture a gun that would be classed either as an automatic or semi-automatically operated gun, even with more than one function of the trigger, and still answer the purpose, in a large way, of a machine gun which requires only one function of the trigger?” (pg 40)

Frederick responded by citing the 1911 handgun as an example of a semi-automatic firearm which is not a machine gun, firing one round per action of the trigger; although he claimed that the 1911 is operated by “force of the gas from the exploded cartridge” (pg 40-41) which, while technically true in the abstract sense, is a very odd description, given that the pistol uses short-recoil operation. He continued by saying “that is not properly a machine gun and in point of effectiveness any gun so operated will be very much less effective than one which pours out a stream of bullets with a single pull and as a perfect stream.” (pg 41) It is very unclear what Frederick meant by “effective”, given that the uses of automatic fire are fairly limited in both contemporary and current doctrine.

Continuing, Hill remarked that such a change in the definition would both broaden (by including all automatic firearms) and reduce (by including no semi-automatic firearms) the scope of what constitutes a machine gun. Congressman Hill questioning demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge of firearms, while Frederick (while not totally accurate, and whose statements were lacking in some areas) at least understood the fundamentals of firearms technology. The final statement made by Frederick during this line of questioning was correct, but the wording used indicates a severe deficiency in his analysis. On the issue of the phrase “single action of the trigger”, he said:

“…that is the essence of a machine gun. Otherwise you have the ordinary repeating rifle. You have the ordinary shotgun which is in no sense and never has been thought of as a machine gun.” (pg 41)

It is entirely accurate to say that what would have been the ordinary rifle or shotgun of the time is not a machine gun. However, to use the term “ordinary” marginalizes and diminishes the ownership of machine guns. There is nothing wrong or objectionable about civilian possession of machine guns, and the only reason it has ever been “non-ordinary” was the high cost of earlier machine guns (typical of any new and developing technology) and then the burdensome regulations which still stifle machine gun ownership today.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

The issue of whether this proposed definition would broaden the scope of what constitutes a machine gun was discussed again, with Frederick stating that he was neither trying to broaden nor restrict the definition, per se. Rather, he wished to have it more accurately represent what a machine gun is, repeating his preference that machine guns which fire fewer than 12 rounds should not be excluded from the legislation.

Thomas C. Cochran (PA-R)

Very briefly, Cochran asked for more information on the “Colt automatic pistol” (pg 41) – presumably this means the 1911 based on Frederick’s previous mention of it. Cochran asked if the aforementioned pistol would be a machine gun under Frederick’s definition and whether it fires continuously when the trigger is depressed, the answer to both of which is no. It must be acknowledged that the Colt 1900, 1902, 1903, 1908, and Woodsman all could be considered an “automatic pistol”, which, while an antiquated term, was often used in contemporary descriptions of semi-automatic firearms. Furthermore, while factory production 1911s were semi-automatic, conversions to make them fully automatic exist and contemporaneous conversions were available, specifically the Lebman.

A 1904 advertisement for the Colt 1903 hammerless.
Photo credit: Sam Lisker’s ColtAutos.com

A 1933 advertisement for the Colt Woodsman pistol.
Photo credit: Period Paper

An example of a Lebman machine pistol.
Photo credit: Guns.com
Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Just like Congressman Cochran, Hill also had a question about the 1911, asking if under the current definition in the bill, it would be considered a machine gun (provided that it had a 12-round magazine). Frederick’s response is so interesting that it must be included in its entirety:

“I do not know what the language means, “automatically or semi-automatically.” The language is not, as I read it, and from my limited knowledge of firearms and ballistics—which has some scope, but I do not pretend to be a finished master in that; I am a lawyer, I am not a firearms manufacturer—I do not know what “automatically or semi-automatically” means. There are automatic features about the Colt pistol in the sense that when a shot is fired the action of the gas not only expels the bullet from one end of the barrel, but it expels the empty shell from the other end, and is is so devised that upon the return of the carriage through a spring, it puts another shell in place of the old one. That is in a sense automatic, and that principle is found in machine guns. But that is not the distinguishing features of a machine gun.” (pg 41-42)

Some leeway should be allowed in this statement in regards to the definitions of “automatically” and “semi-automatically”. As evidenced by the advertisements included in this article, the term “automatic” was used to refer to semi-automatic firearms at the time. Furthermore, the terms are not defined in the original bill, meaning that Frederick could not be sure what the words meant in that context. The previous critique of his description of how a 1911 functions also applies to his description here, but especially when the terms “automatic” and “semi-automatic” had no legal definition, he does make an interesting point that the pistol “automatically” performs certain functions.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Again mentioning John Dillinger, Frear asked if Frederick felt his proposed definition of a machine gun would aid in the effort to apprehend criminals, and if so, could the committee move on to a different issue since Frederick was a lawyer and not a manufacturer. Frederick agreed with Frear on both points.

Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Frederick opened discussion on the issue of the taxes which would be levied against importers and dealers in firearms. Those who have been reading this series will remember that the bill originally left all amounts for taxes blank, but (as was stated by Congressman Hill) Attorney General Cummings had recommended a $5,000/year tax on importers and $200/year on dealers. This provision was objected to by Frederick who said:

“There is, as I see it, no provision made in the act for the jobber [defined by Merriam Webster as “a wholesaler who operates on a small scale or who sells only to retailers and institutions”], who is the general distributor to dealers of pistols. It seems to me that from the little I know of the manner in which the business is conducted, because I have not and never have had any connection with the business of firearms—as I understand it, the jobber plays an essential part in the firearms business. I understand that it would be quite impossible for the manufacturer to pass upon the credit questions and the other matters which arise, as between the ultimate dealer and his supplier. It has suggested itself to my mind that one of the purposes of this bill was to destroy the jobber and to eliminate all but the largest and the wealthiest and the strongest individual dealers.” (pg 42)

Continuing, Frederick speculated that such a tax would put 95% of handgun dealers out of business, specifying that he was including in his definition of dealers anyone who sold handguns, but was not exclusively in the business of selling firearms. Due to the nature of a written transcript, it is difficult to interpret tone, but based on Frederick’s later statements, this mention of wholesalers and shops which sell firearms along with other goods seems to be in the interest of preserving access to handguns, instead of helping Congress determine the most effective means to prevent Americans from purchasing them.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Further discussing the issue of taxing dealers, Frear requested that Frederick provide more concrete and constructive suggestions. However, as was previously mentioned, Frederick had only been able to read the bill that morning, and was not able to prepare more thorough recommendations beyond that a tax should not be implemented which would destroy almost every small scale firearms dealer. Upon inquiry by Frear as to what the basis for the assertion that a $200/year tax would shut down businesses, Frederick replied that he was making an educated guess based on his extensive contact with those involved in the firearms industry. The remainder of this interaction is fascinating, especially when read in the context of how he spoke with Attorney General Cummings; for this reason, it is being presented in full:

MR. FREDERICK. That takes me into the purposes of this bill. This bill, as I see it, is intended to be a bill for the suppression of crime and is proposed to the United States Congress which ordinarily has no power in such matters, under the guise of a revenue raising bill.

MR. FREAR (WI-R). May I ask a question? Are you interested at all in arms manufacturing or anything like that?

MR. FREDERICK. Not at all, in any way.

MR. FREAR (WI-R). They why not offer some constructive criticism? You are complaining about the character of the bill, suggesting what is behind it, the motives behind it, and so forth. Why not offer something constructive that will be helpful to us anywhere along the line?

MR. FREDERICK. I am trying to do so, as rapidly as I can.

MR. FREAR (WI-R). If you will read your record, you will find, I understand, that you are attacking the motives generally.

MR. FREDERICK. Not at all. I am saying that this bill, practically speaking, destroys the business in firearms of 95 percent of the dealers.

MR. FREAR (WI-R). Then why not recommend something, as MR. HILL (WA-D) has suggested?

MR. FREDERICK. I shall be glad to submit a recommendation in that respect, as soon as I have had a chance to examine it.

MR. FREAR (WI-R). Yes; but do not attack the motives for its introduction. We are not interested in that at this time.

MR. FREDERICK. I think that the result of this provision here will be to deprive the rural inhabitant, the inhabitant of the small town, the inhabitant of the farm, of any opportunity to secure a weapon which he perhaps more than anyone else needs for his self-defense and protection. I think that it would be distinctly harmful to destroy the opportunity for self-defense of the ordinary man in the small community, where police forces are not adequate. (pg 43)

The central idea that it is not the government’s place to levy massive taxes to shut down arms dealers and that such behavior is destructive is solid. Moreover, pointing out that the person most hurt by gun control is the average citizen is commendable. With that said, the adequacy of police should have no bearing on the individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Even with the best trained and most capable police imaginable, the right to defense of life, liberty, and property still exists.

Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Congressman Hill began by asking for Frederick to expand on his statement that heavy taxes and licensing would impede the ability of ordinary people to procure the proper firearms for self-defense. In summary, Frederick’s argument is that permits require paperwork to be procured from the federal government and delivered to a federal officer which would be difficult if not impossible for those in rural areas to do. Even if they did, by heavily taxing dealers, the only businesses which would continue to sell firearms would be in large cities where profits are large enough to accommodate such a large additional cost. Hill then requested Frederick’s opinion on if the tax was set at $5 for dealers. While this would not be as severe a detriment to firearms dealers, Frederick provided anecdotal evidence regarding the Uniform Firearms Act’s implementation in Pennsylvania:

“[It] had a provision for $10 license fee for dealers in that State. That law has been in effect in that State for 3 or 4 years. I am told that the practical result is that most of the small dealers, country hardware merchants, and so forth, refuse to take out a license and pay $10, because they say it just is not worth it. They sell maybe three or four guns a year and it is not worth $10 to get the privilege of selling three or four guns. I think that any substantial license fee will destroy the small dealer in the small community.” (pg 44)

In response, Hill inquired as to whether requiring a license absent a fee or with a negligible one would have the same result. Such a requirement would, in Frederick’s opinion, not damage firearms dealers, but would still provide the same “police purpose” (pg 44), which he argued was the main reason behind the bill, not generating revenue. Concern for every American’s ability to access firearms is well and good, but the suggestion that any level of government be it federal, state, local, or otherwise should be involved in determining who can deal in firearms is not. The government should have no involvement in deciding who is selling guns or who they are selling them to. There is no appreciable law enforcement value, and even if there were, invading citizens’ privacy and restricting their access to arms is a line that should never be crossed.

Note: At this point Thomas C. Cochran (PA-R) requested a copy of the Uniform Firearms Act. The act will be included in full at the end of the article so as not to interrupt the main content.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

The chairman’s first questions to Frederick were on the purpose for handgun ownership, asking:

“In what sense is the possession of a pistol essential to the self-defense of people who live in rural communities, as you have stated? Do you mean it is essential to the self-defense of an individual who is out on the highway, or in his home? In what sense is a pistol essential to the self-defense of an individual who lives in a rural community? Why is not a rifle or a shotgun, the possession of which would not be prohibited under this act, sufficient for the self-defense of an individual or an individual’s home?” (pg 48)

This is a statement which demands further examination before continuing to the other testimony. One of, if not the most, important Second Amendment case was Heller v. DC (2008) where the Supreme Court affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. In the majority opinion, Justice Scalia wrote that the handgun is the “quintessential self-defense weapon”, obviously the Committee on Ways and Means would not have any way to be familiar with a SCOTUS decision published 74 years in the future, but it serves to inform on the issue. In the interest of fairness, the Chairman did raise a valid point that a rifle or shotgun is sufficient for home defense. Even with the limited options in the 1930s, there would still be suitable long guns for home defense, such as pump-action and semi-automatic 12 gauge shotguns, the Remington Model 8 and Winchester Model 1907 that were discussed earlier, even lever action .30-30 rifles can be used in a defensive role when needed. With that said, handguns have always been a popular self-defense tool, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Regardless of any arguments for a particular type of weapon, ultimately the choice of what weapon is best for self-defense must be left up to the individual. It is not the government’s responsibility to dictate which firearms a person decides to defend themselves with, and the chairman’s implication that anything “non-essential” can be regulated to the point of inaccessibility is outrageous (for more analysis on this gun control argument, please see the September 14 edition of Well Regulated).

A portion of the chairman’s statement was not included in the above quotation because it (and it’s response by Frederick) required it’s own paragraph. The final sentence in the chairman’s statement was “You know, most of the States have laws against carrying concealed weapons.” Implicit approval for such laws aside, this could be included as a statement of fact and left for additional discussion. But Karl Frederick’s description of such laws as “quite proper laws and…the only effective laws.” (pg 48) is disturbing. Douohton asked if he was only referring to possession of handguns inside of the home, to which Frederick replied that he meant some people carried handguns with a permit and there were a significant number of examples wherein someone engaged in self-defense with a concealed carry handgun. Although Douohton claimed to have “never heard of it” (pg 48), countless such examples exist. In the interest of brevity, this article will not go into a detailed presentation of defensive uses of concealed carry guns or how frequently concealed carry has stopped public mass shootings (any interested readers are advised to visit the sites linked and view the CPRC’s research into the subject). But it would be regrettable to not include Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on concealed carry:

“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Thomas Jefferson, Commonplace Book (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria), 1774-1776

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Interjecting on the subject of concealed carry, Frear said that in his experience, it was not people in the country who carried handguns, but people in cities (again, making reference to John Dillinger). John W. McCormack (MA-D) interrupted briefly to say that Dillinger-type criminals have predominantly come from the country, not the city – there is some legitimacy to this claim, but it is not entirely accurate to say that all of the interstate criminals of the ‘30s came from rural areas. Frear continued by asking if Frederick had helped to create any legislation that would help to prosecute criminals like Dillinger, which once again brought up the Uniform Firearms Act and Frederick’s 16 years of study in the area of firearm legislation. Asked whether such a law had been implemented in New York (Frederick resided in New York City), Frederick responded that some provisions had been, and that he had been working on implementing legislation in New York for two years. This was an unsatisfactory response to Frear, who remarked that he did not want to have to wait 16 more years to pass his desired gun control (in reference to the time spent by Frederick studying the issue).

Diverting from his past legislative efforts, Frederick answered a previous question asked by the chairman (before being questioned by Frear) as to the tax on manufacturers. The argument made by Frederick in regard to the manufacturer tax is almost identical to his argument on dealers. While $5,000/year would be manageable for the largest firearm manufacturers, small-scale companies would be put out of business. Upon suggestion from Frear that the number could be based on sales, Frederick agreed that this would be manageable, and specified that he was speaking in reference to handmade pistol barrels and handmade pistols more generally. As stated in his introduction, Frederick was a practiced handgun shooter who had competed extensively, for which purpose he did not use production handguns.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

The issue of handmade pistols provoked a line of questioning from the chairman. First, he asked whether the entire pistol, or just the barrel was made by one of the manufacturers in question. This was followed by a back and forth between the men as to whether such a builder of pistols could be considered a “manufacturer” for the purposes of the bill. Frederick argued that he would fall under the category given that he procures the action, manufactures the barrel, and performs significant gunsmithing, effectively manufacturing a handgun. He used an analogy that this was the manufacturing of a handgun in the same way that someone who built a car from parts produced by assorted manufacturers and then sold it under a new name is themselves manufacturing a car. This argument was accepted by the chairman, who agreed that such a person would be considered a manufacturer of handguns.

Harold Knutson (MN-R)

Congressman Knutson asked if such a person (as mentioned in the previous question) would assemble a gun, to which Frederick explained the process of taking a production handgun apart, replacing the barrel, and improving the action. Such a firearm was described by Knutson as a “rebuilt” gun, after which he asked again whether Frederick believed such a person would be included in the definition of a manufacturer in the bill, to which Frederick reiterated that he did.

Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Yet again, Frederick was asked to elaborate on his impression of the proposed tax on firearm manufacturers. When asked if a graduated tax (as opposed to a uniform fee) would be acceptable, he was content with such a measure and expressed support for the licensing and registration of manufacturers and dealers, so long as there was not a prohibitive tax placed upon them which would close such businesses. While not quite as horrifying as Cummings’ statements about wanting to shut down gun dealers, approval of any form of firearm licensing scheme or registration is not much better.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

Returning to the issue of potential legislation, Douohton asked how long it would take Frederick to draft a better bill that would still “protect society” (pg 50). While not answering the question directly, Frederick did state that the “useful results which can be accomplished by firearms legislation are extremely limited” (pg 50) and – in the words of the chairman – there is “very little necessity for legislation” (pg 51). Frederick agreed to submit a memorandum on the subject with specific suggestions as to what legislation would be effective.

Harold Knutson (MN-R)

Knutson asked if Frederick had any knowledge of illicit firearms manufacturers, referencing a story he had read in the paper the night before; Frederick had no knowledge of illicit firearm manufacture.

David J. Lewis (MD-D)

On the subject of the illicit manufacture of firearms, Lewis asked what the motive might be for such activity given the minimal regulation of firearms (at least at the federal level). Elaborating on the issue, Frederick argued that what would make the fabrication of a handgun “illicit” would be the purpose for which it is made, not the manufacture itself. To support this point, Frederick explained that any mechanic with a basic knowledge of the tools typically found in a repair shop could build a working handgun in an afternoon, and that such tasks had been completed in prison auto shops to facilitate escapes.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

After confirming Frederick’s belief that whether a firearm is “illicit” depends on the motive of its maker, Frear asked how such a thing would be determined beforehand. Frederick stated that it could not be, merely that the home manufacture of arms and ammo was easy. This very premise would be demonstrated decades later by activist P. A. Luty with his publication of books such as Expedient Homemade Firearms and Expedient Homemade Ammunition, detailing how to manufacture ammunition, machine guns, and more. Luty personally manufactured these same items, and was arrested for doing so in 1998 and 2009.

Note: The construction of one of Luty’s submachine guns by someone without the proper license is a serious felony and even the possession of a digital copy of Luty’s books is illegal in countries without protections on freedom of speech. Because of these legal risks, a link to one of the free PDFs available online of the titles listed above has not been included in this article.

Two of the submachine guns built by P. A. Luty, one fitted with a suppressor, and one unsuppressed.
Photo credit: Ian McCollum/Forgotten Weapons
Jere Cooper (TN-D)

Asking for more information on the subject of the Uniform Firearms Act, Frederick explained that he had originally drafted the act in 1922 and participated in its modification along with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws. Given that he was involved from the start through the law’s adoption, Frederick expressed full support for the law. This support was immediately turned on him when Cooper referenced the definition of a machine gun in the Uniform Firearms Act of DC. The act defined machine guns as:

“…any firearm which shoots automatically or semi-automatically more than 12 shots without reloading.” (pg 52)

While H.R. 9066 defined them as:

“…any weapon designed to shoot automatically or semi-automatically 12 or more shots without reloading.” (pg 52)

Frederick’s rebuttal to this apparent inconsistency was that the act (as he had worked on it) had only dealt with handguns. The provision on machine guns was added at the instruction of the DC police, and he played no role in writing that section. This forced Frederick to backtrack and state that he had meant a “general approval” (pg 52) of the act.

Pressing on, Cooper asked for Frederick to list the other objections he had to the NFA as it stood. Frederick stated his disapproval of the lack of “an exception of antique or obsolete weapons.” (pg 52) which he described as existing solely in museums and collections, but were not used to commit crimes. Although there have been cases where antique arms have been used to commit crimes, such incidents are so rare they do not warrant attention. Exemptions for antique weapons are currently in place in federal law, as well as most state laws, following the ATF definition of an antique:

“…any firearm not intended or redesigned for using rim fire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap or similar type of ignition system or replica thereof, whether actually manufactured before or after the year 1898) and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.”

David J. Lewis (MD-D)

Adding to the discussion of antiques, Lewis asked how far back the line should be drawn to distinguish them from modern firearms. While Frederick did not provide a specific date, he did say that the law should “except obsolete or antique pistols possessed as curiosities or ornaments.” (pg 52) giving the example of a collector with a large number of such weapons needing to procure hundreds of licenses just to move to a different state.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

When asked if such an exemption would alleviate his concern on the matter, Frederick explained that the use of serial numbers was a relatively recent development, and it would be difficult if not impossible to comply with the law’s requirements of identifying markings on older firearms.

Clement C. Dickinson (MO-D)

In one of the rare instances of testimony wherein the constitutionality of the law is raised, Dickinson asked whether the NFA would violate the right to keep and bear arms or against unreasonable search and seizure. Dickinson’s opinion was that it did not violate the Constitution, but Frederick did not give an opinion at the time, citing a need to study the issue more fully but saying that it was a serious issue.

John W. McCormack (MA-D)

Further addressing the issue of constitutionality, McCormack proposed that if Frederick had not considered the constitutional issues of such laws, then it would suggest that such a controversy was not involved. Frederick disagreed with this assertion, claiming that the federal government had no authority to “legislate in a police sense with respect to firearms” (pg 53), but instead that such legislation could only exist on the state level. He continued to state that the taxation and regulation of interstate commerce powers given to Congress would be the only means by which it could regulate firearms, but he had not considered the constitutional implications of such regulation as it had never been proposed prior to the NFA. He went on to say that “this bill goes pretty far for a revenue bill in the direction of setting up what are essentially police regulations.” (pg 53), while simultaneously agreeing with McCormack’s assertion that the taxing of firearms transactions was within Congress’ abilities (although perhaps not to such an extreme degree). While not strictly the subject at hand, Frederick did touch on an important point, namely that gun control advocates have historically (and still do) described their efforts as anything except gun control. They prefer to call their efforts “revenue generation”, “public health initiatives”, and the like, cloaking the true intent behind legitimizing language as a means to distract from the extremism of their political motives.

David J. Lewis (MD-D)

Anyone who has paid any attention to the gun control debate is surely familiar with the analogizing of cars to guns. It is often claimed that our society regulates cars more than it does firearms, with the argument being that if only similar legislation could be enacted regarding weapons, the world would be safer. This exact argument was made by Congressman Lewis, who then asked if “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?” (pg 54) Of course, this analogy is based on the false equivalency of the privilege to operate a motor vehicle on public roads and the right to keep and bear arms. A fundamental and natural right is not some privilege granted by the grace of the government and which that same institution may take away or restrict whenever or however it so desires. As with other sections, Frederick’s response is interesting and proper enough to warrant full quotation:

“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….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.” (pg 54)

While it is unfortunate that Frederick did not address the obvious issue of treating firearms ownership and driving as though they were due the same amount of constitutional protection, he was very effective in countering the main arguments made by Lewis. Taking to task the assumption that all citizens are criminals who have not yet offended, but must be watched over as if they were about to, is just as relevant today as it was in 1934. Furthermore, it was very right to correct the assumption that automobiles were regulated less strictly than firearms. This assumption still persists and is completely inaccurate when the actual regulations for each type of object are looked at side by side.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

The chairman did not believe Frederick’s assertion that those who arm themselves are less criminal than the average motorist, or even the average citizen. While Frederick could not produce any statistics to support his claim at the time, in hindsight, his assertion is entirely accurate. According to research by John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center, those with concealed carry permits are not only more law-abiding than the average citizen, but even more law-abiding than the police, committing felonies at ⅙ the rate of police officers. Douohton asked if Frederick felt that the current regulations on “pistols, machine guns, and deadly weapons” (pg 55) were too strict, to which he replied that they were.

John W. McCormack (MA-D)

McCormack further pressed on the issue of analogizing firearms ownership, and at the risk of over-quotation in lieu of summary, the entire exchange will be included so as not to diminish its impact :

MR. McCORMACK. You made an interesting remark in response to one of Mr. Lewis’ questions when you said that weapons and automobiles are an interesting analogy. You recognize the clear line of distinction and demarcation between a weapon and an automobile, so far as its being inherently dangerous is concerned?

MR. FREDERICK. I think the automobile is dangerous.

MR. McCORMACK. I understand it is dangerous if it is negligibly operated. Would not the interesting analogy be more between a pistol and dope peddling? Would not that be a closer link than the link-up of a pistol with an automobile?

MR. FREDERICK. I do not think so.

MR. McCORMACK. The use of dope is recognized by mankind as inherently harmful to the human being.

MR. FREDERICK. Except as prescribed by physicians.

MR. McCORMACK. That is the exception but, as a general rule, it is recognized as inherently dangerous. The same applies to weapons; they are recognized as inherently dangerous.

MR. FREDERICK. I do not think so.

MR. McCORMACK. What do people buy weapons for?

MR. FREDERICK. People buy weapons for several purposes; one is for the protection of the person or property.

MR. McCORMACK. That class of people have no fear about reasonable license requirements.

MR. FREDERICK. Not reasonable requirements.

MR. McCORMACK. They have no fear of reasonable regulations as to licenses, if the weapons are necessary to meet a challenge to organized society.

MR. FREDERICK. They buy pistols also to use for the purpose of training, in the event of military necessity.

MR. McCORMACK. Those persons need not fear reasonable regulations.

MR. FREDERICK. I beg your pardon?

MR. McCORMACK. Those persons need have no fear of reasonable regulations.

MR. FREDERICK. I think our difference may turn entirely upon what is reasonable.

MR. McCORMACK. You are not opposed to regulation?

MR. FREDERICK. Not at all; I have advocated it.

MR. McCORMACK. You are not opposed to a Federal bill?

MR. FREDERICK. Provided the bill will accomplish useful results in the suppression of crime, I am heartily in favor of it.

MR. McCORMACK. You have given two groups who buy pistols.

MR. FREDERICK. Another group is those who indulge in the use of pistols in connection with sports.

MR. McCORMACK. That group need not fear any proper regulation.

MR. FREDERICK. Any difference that we may have, and I do not know whether we have any, turns on the question of what is reasonable.

MR. McCORMACK. I agree with you; you and I have a meeting of the minds on that. What other group is interested?

MR. FREDERICK. At the moment I do not think of any.

MR. McCORMACK. Then there is the criminal group.

MR. FREDERICK. Yes; and that is the one group we are after.

MR. McCORMACK. That is the only group who would object to regulations.

MR. FREDERICK. Yes; and it is the only group that has never been touched.

Yet again, Frederick disarmed the improper analogizing of firearms ownership, instead emphasizing their practical usage. The issue of support for “reasonable” regulation has already been addressed by this series, and will not be retread, but needless to say, it is a losing proposition. Finally, the statement by Frederick that criminals are the only group not touched by gun control is plainly true given that the very definition of a criminal is someone who does not follow the law. Moreover, even the Attorney General who fully supported this law acknowledged in his testimony that criminals would not follow it.

David J. Lewis (MD-D)

Lewis asked if state-level licensing schemes had denied the right to those who had been convicted of a crime, which Frederick acknowledged that they did.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Frustrated by how long the process was taking, Frear requested that Frederick run through his objections without interruption or digression. The first objection mentioned by Frederick was on the fingerprinting requirements, which Frear did not take issue with. Next, he addressed the cost of a permit to transfer in interstate commerce, recommending that it be as small as possible – 25, 15, and 10 cents were all given as proposed costs. Frederick proceeded to address a concern about someone who had purchased a firearm having to maintain that weapon along with multiple tax stamps, one from each transfer the firearm had gone through. He proposed that a tax stamp only be required when transferring the firearm to a non-dealer. Furthermore, he proposed that it be easy to recuperate a copy, should an existing tax stamp be lost or damaged. The language of Section 9 (b) (3) was described by Frederick as “too loose and too drastic” (pg 58) to which Frear said that an alternative could be submitted by Frederick later. He also proposed submitting alternative language for Section 10 (a) (1) at a later date.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)/Clement C. Dickinson (MO-D)/Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Frederick clarified for the above congressmen that his views were in alignment with those of the NRA who he represented and that he would begin drafting his suggestions immediately.

Harold Knutson (MN-R)

In response to a reminder from Hill to keep the gangster in mind when drafting legislation, Frederick said that most firearm regulations do not impact the criminal, but do hurt the average citizen. He reiterated that armed civilians and police were both crucial in the effort to combat crime; by reducing the ability of civilians to defend themselves, criminals would be able to more freely engage in crime. Knutson objected to this, saying that while there is a right to self-defense, it “[is] ineffective…under the present situation.” (pg 59) Frederick did offer to present a collection of anecdotal evidence he had sourced from newspapers which represented “dozens and hundreds of cases” (pg 59) of firearms being used for self-defense each year. There is very little contemporary data on the subject, but research from the present day has found that there are 300,000-1.5 million defensive uses of firearms each year, and that there is a lower risk of injury to victims of crimes who used firearms to defend themselves.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Upon questioning as to how many people carried handguns, Frederick could not present a definitive number, but instead gave the generality that there were a “good many” (pg 59). Given his previous description of the considerable benefit to society from the carrying of firearms, it is truly bizarre that Frederick volunteered such a backward opinion on carrying a handgun:

“I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. I have when I felt it was desirable to do so for my own protection….I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.” (pg 59)

The data cited earlier in this article demonstrate that one of the most effective means to promote peace and safety in society is to ensure that civilians are in the practice of carrying guns, and can do so with as few barriers as possible. Frederick did not explain how he reached this conclusion on the practice of carrying a handgun.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

In response to questions from the chairman, Frederick corrected the misapprehension that the NRA was trying to pass federal gun control measures, as it believed “little of value can be accomplished by Federal legislation” (pg 59).

Harold Knutson (MN-R)

Frederick responded to a question as to whether the NRA would be proposing an alternative to H.R. 9066 by reiterating his belief that federal legislation would be ineffective.

Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

Pressing for alternative proposed legislation, Hill opined that the only way in which Frederick could defeat the bill as it stood would be to alter or replace it. Frederick rejected this dichotomy, restating once again that he did not believe federal legislation could be effective in combating crime. He also restated that criminals would and have obtained firearms regardless of the laws in place, commenting:

“Dillinger stole his guns. I have a half-dozen cases where guns have been used in prisons to effect a break; we have had that in New York, and all over the country. If you cannot keep guns out of the hands of criminals in jails, I do not see how you can keep them out of the hands of criminals walking about on the public highways.” (pg 60)

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

Supporting gun control at the state, but not the federal level gave pause to the chairman given the apparent contradiction. Frederick restated his position on regulation being beneficial provided that it does not impede the right of self-defense – this position has been examined multiple times in this article, and will not be given repeat analysis. The chairman asked Frederick to compare his experience with that of the Justice Department. While Frederick had not been a prosecutor, and acknowledged the experience of the department, he also argued that he had focused on firearms legislation for a far greater period of time than the Justice Department had.

Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)

In his testimony, Attorney General Cummings argued that while this legislation would not disarm criminals, it would increase the ease with which they could be prosecuted. Hill restated this argument for Frederick, who agreed with the premise. Instead, Frederick recommended that anyone convicted of a violent crime be prohibited from possessing any firearm (the current definition of a prohibited possessor is far more restrictive). This was less than satisfactory to Hill who asked about those criminals who had not yet been convicted of a crime, but Frederick argued that the risk to law-abiding persons was greater than the ability of such legislation to catch actual criminals.

James A. Frear (WI-R)

Frear asked in a number of ways whether Frederick was compensated in any way by companies within the firearms industry. The response was that Frederick had never had any commercial involvement with firearms either in his personal life, law practice, or work for the NRA.

John W. McCormack (MA-D)/Clement C. Dickinson (MO-D)/Samuel B. Hill (WA-D)Frank Crowther (NY-R)

At the request of McCormack, Frederick explained that the NRA was a group which promoted firearms usage and was comprised of individual members as well as affiliates such as gun clubs. This questioning was interrupted to discuss the issue of telegrams urging the committee to give proper consideration to Frederick’s objections. Reckord said that he had made the NRA’s affiliates aware that there was a hearing that day, and to make their opinion known. Although this divergence from the main issue was both lengthy and dramatic, it has little to do with the content of the hearings, so a more detailed summary will not be provided.

Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D)

Having been in session for over two hours, the chairman attempted to move on to other testimony. Frederick was allowed to make one final objection, on Section 10, which he believed should be modified so that once someone had obtained their permit for a handgun, it would be good to transport the firearm indefinitely (as opposed to having to acquire a new permit each time the weapon was moved to a different location).


Assistant Attorney General Keenan made a brief statement which primarily consisted of restating that which was said by the Attorney General during his testimony. Essentially, Keenan argued that the law would not stop criminals from getting firearms, but would make it easier to prosecute them, and that such legislation had been demanded by a great number of ordinary civilians and police. Keenan also denied having made any promise, implicit or otherwise, to work with the NRA in drafting legislation. He felt that both Reckord and Frederick were fully aware of the contents of the NFA beforehand, as the bill was the result of combining Senate Bills 2844 and 2840. The Assistant Attorney General dismissed the expertise of Frederick and Reckord, saying that “we who are more or less in the center, and who are not experts and have not given the same amount of study would be in a better position to say what is the fair thing to do to eliminate the evil that unquestionably exists with the least burdensome provisions to effect some legislation that would mean something.” (pg 66) It is unclear how Keenan came to the conclusion that a lack of expertise would lead to better legislation, or how such an extremist bill could be considered non-burdensome or “in the center”.


Thomas Ryan (who died in 1929) was the initial financier for Auto Ordnance, seeing commercial potential in the design by Brigadier General Thompson. The Ryan estate maintained ownership of Auto Ordnance until 1939, when it was sold to Russel Maguire. W. B. Ryan appeared before the committee to voice support for the bill and state his belief that it would disarm criminals.

Jere Cooper (TN-D)

Cooper’s questioning primarily focused on the manufacturing and distribution of machine guns. Ryan clarified that Auto Ordnance owned the patents for the Thompson submachine gun, but that it was manufactured by Colt. He also stated that the “small type machine guns” which were “used by the gangsters or criminals today” were only manufactured by Colt, adding that in addition to manufacturing the Thompson, Colt also manufactured the Monitor. Once again, Ryan was asked his opinion on the efficacy of the law, and he said that he believed it would be effective in disarming criminals. When asked about machine guns being imported, Ryan claimed that there were two types that were made in Europe, imported into South America, and then brought into the United States. On the issue of the manufacturers’ tax shutting down small manufacturers, Ryan said that he was not aware of any other manufacturers in the United States which made the types of weapons described in the bill. Yet again, Ryan was asked to espouse his support for the bill and did.

The way that Ryan phrased his responses to Cooper implied that the Thompson and the Monitor were the only machine guns manufactured in America. As was already discussed in this article, the Colt Monitor is one of the least manufactured variants of the BAR (which cannot by any reasonable standard be considered a small firearm). Furthermore, other machine guns (as defined in the bill) were in production in the US. It is entirely unclear what models Ryan was referring to as being imported into South America from Europe. It would be possible to speculate, but without any more information, an accurate answer is unlikely to be produced.

Ashton C. Shallenberger (NE-D)

Responding to Shallenberger’s questions, Ryan stated that the US Army and many domestic police used the Thompson submachine gun, but that they were not in use in Great Britain (Ryan was not sure if any machine guns were in use by British police).


Imlay began his statement by explaining the purpose of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws as having worked for 43-44 years on drafting legislation that could be implemented in every state. Essentially, these proposals would have the national impact of federal law, but the enforcement of state law. In 1923, Imlay was appointed to begin work on the Uniform Firearms Act, which he completed in 1930, citing this experience as the basis for his expertise (although specifying that he was speaking as an individual, not a representative of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Laws). Imlay’s objection to H.R. 9066 was the inclusion of purchase licenses, which were originally part of the Uniform Firearms Act, but was later removed after comparing it to other legislation. Imlay also included a copy of the draft of the Uniform Firearms Act, a written commentary he had published on the Capper Firearms Bill, and a version of the Uniform Firearms Act with written commentary. The Uniform Firearms Act as law in DC will be included at the end of this article, but the other texts Imlay had introduced into the record are not. These texts can be read in full in the hearing transcript.


Speaking on behalf of the American Legion, Taylor expressed disapproval for the inclusion of handguns in the bill, claiming that it would hurt the average citizen. However, the Legion was in agreement with the Justice Department on all other aspects of the bill.


Claiming to speak on behalf of 6,000,000 American sportsmen, Gordon expressed support for the regulation of machine guns, but (like most of the day’s speakers) took issue with the inclusion of handguns in the law. Unlike Frederick, who opposed the inclusion of handguns on the basis of self-defense, Gordon argued that since many sportsmen carry a sidearm while hunting, they should not be regulated. When asked by Ashton C. Shallenberger (NE-D) about “sawed-off shotguns” (pg 81), Gordon said that he would support regulating them if Congress could find a way to do so. The chairman interjected to ask what justification there was for owning such a shotgun, to which Gordon claimed there was none. Gordon was, however, concerned that such a term would be used to refer to a shotgun whose barrel had been damaged, and then cut down behind the damaged portion, as opposed to one whose barrel was shorter than 18-22”. There is no mention of why that range of barrel lengths separates an acceptable firearm from an unacceptable one. Additionally, anyone with a basic knowledge of how to use a long gun for self-defense knows that (especially inside of a house) a shorter barrel allows for better maneuverability, lower weight (important for smaller and weaker shooters), and is less likely to give away the resident’s position to an assailant. To claim that there is no justifiable use for a short-barreled shotgun (constitutional implications aside) demonstrates an incredible narrowmindedness, ignorance, or both.

Interjection by General Reckord

Although Reckord was not technically given the opportunity to give a statement, the remainder of the day’s testimony was him discussing issues with Jere Cooper (TN-D), Chairman Robert L. Douohton (NC-D), and Assistant Attorney General Keenan. Once again, Reckord stated his belief that “the machine gun, submachine gun, sawed-off shotgun, and dangerous and deadly weapons could all be included in any kind of a bill” (pg 81) (the redundancy and pointlessness of using the adjectives “dangerous” and “deadly” to modify the word “weapon” have already been addressed in Part 2). He also reminded the committee that the NRA desired a meeting with the Attorney General’s office to work towards drafting better legislation. Cooper inquired as to how long it would take to produce specific recommendations, citing the several hour discussion that Reckord and Frederick had with Keenan and the hour he had talked for in his testimony. Reckord suggested that he might have such recommendations by 4/23/1934. The chairman recommended that the Attorney General’s office have another meeting with Reckord to discuss the subject. Keenan then claimed that Reckord had communicated via a Mr. Smith, in the Attorney General’s office, that they would not consider legislation which in any way regulated handguns. This claim was disputed by Reckord, who said that Smith had told him Keenan would not accept any suggestion on the matter. The issue was chalked up to a misunderstanding.

Text of the DC Uniform Firearms Act

AN ACT To control the possession, sale, transfer, and use of pistols and other dangerous weapons in the District of Columbia, to provide penalties, to prescribe rules of evidence, and for other purposes

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


SECTION 1. “Pistol,” as used in this Act, means any firearm with a barrel less than twelve inches in length.

“Sawed-off shotgun,” as used in this Act, means any shotgun with a barrel less than twenty inches in length.

” Machine gun,” as used in this Act, means any firearm which shoots automatically or semiautomatically more than twelve shots without reloading.

“Person,” as used in this Act, includes, individual, firm, association, or corporation.

“Sell” and “purchase” and the various derivatives of such words, as used in this Act, shall be construed to include letting on hire, giving, lending, borrowing, and otherwise transferring.

“Crime of violence” as used in this Act, means any of the following crimes, or an attempt to commit any of the same, namely: Murder, man slaughter, rape, mayhem, maliciously disfiguring another, abduction, kidnapping, burglary, housebreaking, larceny, any assault with intent to kill, commit rape, or robbery, assault with a dangerous weapon, or assault with intent to commit any offense punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary.


SEC. 2. If any person shall commit a crime of violence in the District of Columbia when armed with or having readily available any pistol or other firearm, he may, in addition to the punishment provided for the crime, be punished by imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; upon a second conviction for a crime of violence so committed he may, in addition to the punishment provided for the crime, be punished by imprisonment for a term of not more than ten years; upon a third conviction for a crime of violence so committed he may, in addition to the punishment provided for the crime, be punished by imprisonment for a term of not more than fifteen years; upon a fourth or subsequent conviction for a crime of violence so committed he may, in addition to the punishment provided for the crime, be punished by imprisonment for an additional period of not more than thirty years.


SEC. 3. No person who has been convicted in the District of Columbia or elsewhere of a crime of violence shall own or have in his possession a pistol, within the District of Columbia.


SEC. 4. No person shall within the District of Columbia carry concealed on or about his person, except in his dwelling house or place of business or on other land possessed by him, a pistol, without a license therefor issued as hereinafter provided, or any deadly or dangerous weapon.


SEC. 6. The provisions of the preceding section shall not apply to marshals, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen or other duly appointed law-enforcement officers, or to members of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States or of the National Guard or Organized Reserves when on duty, or to the regularly enrolled members of any organization duly authorized to purchase or receive such weapons from the United States, provided such members are at or are going to or from their places of assembly or target practice, or to officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry a concealed pistol, or to any person engaged in the business of manufacturing, repairing, or dealing in firearms, or the agent or representative of any such person having in his possession, using, or carrying a pistol in the usual or ordinary course of such business or to any person while carrying a pistol unloaded and in a secure wrapper from the place of purchase to his home or place of business or to a place of repair or back to his home or place of business or in moving goods from one place of abode or business to another.


SEC. 6. The superintendent of police of the District of Columbia may, upon the application of any person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the District of Columbia or of any person having a bona fide residence or place of business within the United States and a license to carry a pistol concealed upon his person issued by the lawful authorities of any State or subdivision of the United States, issue a license to such person to carry a pistol within the District of Columbia for not more than one year from date of issue, if it appears that the applicant has good reason to fear injury to his person or property or has any other proper reason for carrying a pistol and that he is a suitable person to be so licensed, The license shall be in duplicate, in form to be prescribed by the Commissioners of the District of Columbia and shall bear the name, address, description, photograph, and signature of the licensee and the reason given for desiring a license. The original thereof shall be delivered to the licensee, and the duplicate shall be retained by the superintendent of police of the District of Columbia and preserved in his office for six years.


SEC 7. No person shall within the District of Columbia sell any pistol to a person who he has reasonable cause to believe is not of sound mind, or is a drug addict, or is a person who has been convicted in the District of Columbia or elsewhere of a crime of violence or, except when the relation of parent and child or guardian and ward exists, is under the age of eighteen years.


SEC. 8. No seller shall within the District of Columbia deliver a pistol to the purchaser thereof until forty-eight hours shall have elapsed from the time of the application for the purchase thereof, except in the case of sales to marshals, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens or their deputies, policemen, or other duly appointed law-enforcement officers, and, when delivered, said pistol shall be securely wrapped and shall be unloaded. At the time of applying for the purchase of a pistol the purchaser shall sign in duplicate and deliver to the seller a statement containing his full name, address, occupation, color, place of birth, the date and hour of application, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the pistol to be purchased and a statement that he has never been convicted in the District of Columbia or elsewhere of a crime of violence. The seller shall, within six hours after such application, sign and attach his address and deliver one copy to such person or persons as the superintendent of police of the District of Columbia may designate, and shall retain the other copy for six years. No machine-gun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack shall be sold to any person other than the persons designated in section 14 hereof as entitled to possess the same, and then only after permission to make such sale has been obtained from the superintendent of police of the District of Columbia. This section shall not apply to sales at wholesale to licensed dealers.


SEC. 9. No retail dealer shall within the District of Columbia sell or expose for sale or have in his possession with intent to sell, any pistol, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack without being licensed as hereinafter provided. No wholesale dealer shall, within the District of Columbia, sell, or have in his possession with intent to sell, to any person other than a licensed dealer, any pistol, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack.


SEC. 10. The Commissioners of the District of Columbia may, in their discretion, grant licenses and may prescribe the form thereof, effective for not more than one year from date of Issue, permitting the licensee to sell pistols, machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and blackjacks at retail within the District of Columbia subject to the following conditions in addition to those specified in section 9 hereof, for breach of any of which the license shall be subject to forfeiture and the licensee subject to punishment as provided in this Act.

1. The business shall be carried on only in the building designated in the license.

2. The license or a copy thereof, certified by the issuing authority, shall be displayed on the premises where it can be easily read.

3. No pistol shall be sold (a) if the seller has reasonable cause to believe that the purchaser is not of sound mind or is a drug addict or has been convicted in the District of Columbia or elsewhere of a crime of violence or is under the age of eighteen years, and (b) unless the purchaser is personally known to the seller or shall present clear evidence of his identity. No machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack shall be sold to any person other than the persons designated in section 14 hereof as entitled to possess the same, and then only after permission to make such sale has been obtained from the superintendent of police of the District of Columbia.

4. A true record shall be made in a book kept for the purpose, the form of which may be prescribed by the Commissioners, of all pistols, machine guns, and sawed-off shotguns in the possession of the licensee, which said record shall contain the date of purchase, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the weapon, to which shall be added, when sold, the date of sale.

5. A true record in duplicate shall be made of every pistol, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, and blackjack sold, said record to be made in a book kept for the purpose, the form of which may be prescribed by the Commissioners of the District of Columbia and shall be personally signed by the purchaser and by the person effecting the sale, each in the presence of the other and shall contain the date of sale, the name, address, occupation, color, and place of birth of the purchaser, and, so far as applicable, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the weapon, and a statement signed by the purchaser that he has never been convicted in the District of Columbia or elsewhere of a crime of violence. One copy of said record shall, within seven days, be forwarded by mail to the superintendent of police of the District of Columbia and the other copy retained by the seller for six years.

6. No pistol or imitation thereof or placard advertising the sale thereof shall be displayed in any part of said premises where it can readily be seen from the outside. No license to sell at retail shall be granted to anyone except as provided in this section.


SEC. 11. No person, shall, in purchasing a pistol or in applying for a license to carry the same, or in purchasing a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or blackjack within the District of Columbia, give false information or offer false evidence of his identify.


SEC. 12. No person shall within the District of Columbia change, alter, remove, or obliterate the name of the maker, model, manufacturer’s number, or other mark or identification on any pistol, machine gun, or sawed-off shotgun. Possession of any pistol, machine gun, or sawed-off shotgun upon which any such mark shall have been changed, altered, removed, or obliterated shall be prima facie evidence that the possessor has changed, altered, removed, or obliterated the same within the District of Columbia: Provided, however, That nothing contained in this section shall apply to any officer or agent of any of the departments of the United States or the District of Columbia engaged in experimental work.


SEC. 13. This Act shall not apply to toy or antique pistols unsuitable for use as firearms.


SEC. 14. No person shall within the District of Columbia possess any machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly own as a blackjack, slung shot, sand club, sandbag, or metal knuckles, nor any instrument, attachment, or appliance for causing the firing of any firearm to be silent or intended to lessen or muffle the noise of the firing of any firearms: Provided, however. That machine guns, or sawed-off shotguns, and blackjacks may be possessed by the members of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps of the United States, the National Guard, or Organized Reserves when on duty, the Post Office Department or its employees when on duty, marshals, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen, or other duly appointed law-enforcement officers, officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry such weapons, banking institutions, public carriers who are engaged in the business of transporting mail, money, securities, or other valuables, wholesale dealers and retail dealers licensed under section 10 of this Act.


SEC. 15. Any violation of any provision of this Act for which no penalty is specifically provided shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.


SEC. 10. If any part of this Act is for any reason declared void, such invalidity shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this Act.

certain acts repealed

Sec. 17. The following sections of the Code of Law for the District of Columbia, 1919, namely, sections 855, 856, and 857, and all other Acts or parts of Acts inconsistent herewith, are hereby repealed.

Approved, July 8, 1932.