Saturday, February 4, 2023

I Love it When Gun Control Advocates Admit Their Limits

Attorney General Cummings testimony before the Ways and Means Committee concerning the National Firearms Act (1934), includes this revealing discussion between Cummings and members of the Committee:

Mr. McCLINTIC. I would like to ask just one question. I am very much interested in this subject. What in your opinion would be the constitutionality of a provision added to this bill which would require registration, on the part of those who now own the type or class of weapons that are included in this bill?

 Attorney General CUMMINGS. We were afraid of that, sir.

 Mr. MCCLINTIC. Afraid it would conflict with State laws?

 Attorney General CUMMINGS. I am afraid it would be unconstitutional.[1]

 The proponent of a machine regulatory law argued that requiring just registration was unconstitutional.  Imagine his reaction to bans on sale or purchase!

A bit further into the discussion:

Mr. LEWIS. Now a very brief statement on this subject: Lawyer though I am, I have never quite understood how the laws of the various States have been reconciled with the provision in our Constitution denying the privilege to the legislature to take away the right to carry arms. Concealed-weapon laws, of course, are familiar in the various States; there is a legal theory upon which we prohibit the carrying of weapons — the smaller weapons.

 Attorney General CUMMINGS. Of course we deal purely with concealable weapons. Machine guns, however, are not of that class.

 Do you have any doubt as to the power of the Government to deal with machine guns as they are transported in interstate commerce?

 Mr. LEWIS. I hope the courts will find no doubt on a subject like this, General; but I was curious to know how we escaped that provision in the Constitution.

 Attorney General CUMMINGS. Oh, we do not attempt to escape it.  We are dealing with another power, namely, the power of taxation, and of regulation under the interstate commerce clause. You see, if we made a statute absolutely forbidding any human being to have a machine gun, you might say there is some constitutional question involved. But when you say "We will tax the machine gun” and when you say that " the absence of a license showing payment of the tax has been made indicates that a crime has been perpetrated”, you are easily within the law.

 Mr. LEWIS. In other words, it does not amount to prohibition, but allows of regulation.[2]

The Attorney General of the United States sought a law to deal with a very real problem, organized crime and the much less organized gangs such as John Dillinger and Bonnie & Clyde, and yet he thought the Constitution prohibited the national government from banning private ownership of machine guns!  Nor did Cummings disagree with Rep. Lewis’ belief that the “right to carry arms” imposed some restriction.  If Rep. Lewis was not referring to the Second Amendment, to what was he referring?  Rep. Lewis’ lack of understanding why the “right to carry arms” did not apply to the states reflects the Court’s hesitant steps towards incorporation of the Bill of Rights to the states.  Bruen has clearly incorporated those rights, and it is hard to see any amendments to the Constitution between 1868 and 1934, or from 1934 to today, that could change Attorney General Cummings concerns. 

[1] National Firearms Act, Hearings Before The Committee On Ways And Means House Of Representatives, 73rd Cong.. 2nd sess. 13 (1934).

[2] Id., at 19.

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