By Sam Hoober
Federal law (and the BATFE, who enforces it) creates a number of arbitrary and pointless regulations on certain classes of firearms that aren’t popular with the gun-owning public. Specifically, tax stamps on short-barreled rifles, suppressors and transferables.
In recent years, a lot of people have advocated for non-compliance with these regulations. Don’t pay your tax stamp and so on and so forth.
This isn’t to argue for the NFA, and this isn’t to say that civil disobedience is a bad thing or anything like that. This is instead to point something out about people who talk about this stuff, by way of literary metaphor.
If you didn’t watch “Game Of Thrones,” one of the characters (Jaime Lannister) had killed the king he was sworn to protect as a sort of Praetorian guard. Said king was a tyrant, murdering all sorts of people, and he was about to massacre the inhabitants of the fictional capital city in the show.
Years later, a new right hand man to the king who supplanted him shows up (the character Ned Stark) and they talk about it. Stark points out that he served the previous king well…”when serving was safe.”
In essence, he’s calling him something of a coward (and/or derelict of his duty) because he served his king when it wasn’t difficult to but stabbed him in the back when it was.
And here we come to the issues of tax stamps.
For those unaware, the cost of a federal tax stamp is $200, which isn’t laughable but isn’t exactly a huge amount either. So the cost of compliance is not very high, at least for the moment anyway!
Now, there are a couple of different ways to look at it.
You could play devil’s advocate and consider that the NFA laws suck but are hardly the worst thing in the world. You know what the standard menu items are; large-sizing your fries and your Coke with your burger costs extra.
Governments are businesses too, and short barrels are a la carte items. It sucks, but them’s the breaks.
Or, you could insist that any gun regulation whatsoever is an infringement, unconstitutional, and you have no obligation to follow it.
Exactly what your viewpoint is on this is up to you. Everyone gets to make up their own mind about everything, but this isn’t about what my or your or that guy over there’s opinion is about gun laws.
The point is really what you’re going to do about it.
And this is where “Game Of Thrones” starts to become relevant.
In the story, Jaime Lannister turns on his king when things get bad, even though he’s completely justified in doing so.
And here’s the idea:
It’s very easy to preach non-compliance, and it’s another thing to actually do it and be willing to face arrest, arraignment, trial and possible sentencing.
Don’t fool yourself; “the Second is muh permit” is not an affirmative defense.
While we’re at it, let’s run down a few things.
The average cost of a bail bond is $10,000, but bear in mind that bail bonds get more expensive the more serious the charge.
The average cost of an attorney is somewhere between $200 and $250 per hour, depending on which website you get that information from, assuming you can afford an attorney.
And that’s just what your lawyer will only charge by the hour. Typically, lawyers charge a retainer for a minimum number of hours that they’ll spend working on your case, and bill for more once they exceed those hours.
It’s estimated that the low-end for a felony trial is about $10,000, but legal costs of $100,000 or more are not unheard of.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the typical length of the criminal process – from arrest to sentencing – is anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Federal cases where the defendant pleads guilty last an average of just under 8 months from arrest to sentencing, bench trials averaged just under 7 months, and jury trials lasted about a year.
Okay, great. Getting arrested is bad, trials are expensive and so on. Does that mean that we should just roll over and do whatever they tell us?
Not at all.
You should write your representatives, state and federal, and vote in every election you can for candidates that align with your values, including on gun rights. Donate to organizations that lobby, and fund lawsuits challenging flagrantly bad gun laws in court.
You should also leave public comments whenever the ATF has a public comment period. In fact, the ATF is taking public comments right now about the definition of a “receiver.” You can leave your comments here.
But it’s also that it doesn’t help anyone to tell other people they should do something that has real and severe consequences when you aren’t facing them yourself.
Sam Hoober is a hunter and shooter based in the Inland Northwest.