FEDERAL GUN LAWS INCREASE BY 17%
by Alan Korwin, Author
Gun Laws of America
The tenth anniversary edition of "Gun Laws of America," the unabridged guide to federal gun law, shows both increases and decreases depending on how you count the laws, says Alan Korwin, publisher of Bloomfield Press, which has produced the book since 1995. The completely revised edition is due out in July.
"Some gun laws have been repealed, the assault-weapon law expired, and many new gun laws have been enacted by Congress," Korwin notes. "All told, we have 40 more statutes, for a total of 271 federal gun laws, a 17% increase in the past decade." That is the true measure, Korwin says.
The word count however has dropped slightly, by 979 words or about 1%, to a total of 93,354 words of federal gun law. The assault-weapon law expiration removed 1,105 words, but it also eliminated the 3,710-word list of "good guns," those declared to not be assault weapons. That list was included at the insistence of the NRA, who had feared the law might expand to include regular guns widely owned in America.
Among the significant repeals, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, formed during the Cold War, was abolished, with its primary functions rolled into the State Department. The Civilian Marksmanship Program, designed to teach the general public to shoot and handle firearms safely, was repealed from the Armed Services laws, and expanded and rewritten into the Patriotic Societies laws.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was removed from the Treasury Dept., where it had been a tax bureau since its inception, and now operates under the Attorney General, with Explosives added to its name and an implicit Justice Dept. law-enforcement focus.
The most dramatic word losses occurred during "codification," a little-known process managed behind the scenes by federal workers. This takes bills passed by Congress and converts them into the numbered statutes of law called U.S. Code. For example, Congress enacted 39 words to extend the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act, which was about to expire. After codification, the statute simply expires in "25 years," not "15 years," a significant change but with no difference in the word count. Earlier measurements of the size of federal law included the congressionally passed laws.
Surprisingly, some parts of congressional acts are never codified at all. This also lowers the final word counts. Those so-called "statutes-at-large," if related to arms, are included in Gun Laws of America as an appendix. They are not counted in the official statutory total, but do contain another 4,354 words of federal gun law.
The large repeal, expiration and codification losses were offset by scores of new gun laws. Many were enacted with no public attention and little noise from usually loud pro-gun-rights and anti-gun-rights lobbies. Some new gun laws, instead of affecting citizens, expanded federal powers.
For example, at least six new federal police forces were created, with broad powers to keep and bear arms in cases where the public is banned from keeping arms. This includes a new Federal Reserve Board police force, the Inspectors General police, plus more visible changes such as Homeland Security forces and armed Transportation Security agents. Two armed-pilot programs, for passenger and cargo pilots, allow pilots to be deputized as federal agents and then carry arms while deputized (pilots per se cannot be armed under the law).