I cringe when I hear people scream for gun control, as though the gun jumped up and fired without any contribution from a human being. You do not hear about vehicle control when a car plows into a crowd or knife control when a stabbing occurs. The gun, however, is always the villain. What citizens do not realize is that firearm sales are already controlled in American society. Therefore, here is a little history lesson.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 came about because of the violence of mobsters during the era of prohibition. Outlaws (those who live outside the law) used full-automatic firearms to control territory for the purposes of not only smuggling illicit alcohol, but control of prostitution and other illegal activities. The Tommy Gun, as depicted in movies of the period such as Elliott Ness and the Alcohol Tax Unit, was responsible for horrendous numbers of deaths. Called gangster weapons with “no usefulness of self-defense” according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, this was his New Deal for Crime and introduced the role of the federal government into crime fighting.

The NFA of 1934 required that any person buying a full-automatic firearm (machine guns) apply through an application, get fingerprints and purchase a special tax stamp. This law still exists, and any possession of a machine gun requires an extensive background investigation, payment of fees and approximately six months before a tax stamp is issued. Machine guns are expensive, are in the hands of private collectors or museums and are rarely used in the commission of a crime.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 came about because of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. President Lyndon B. Johnson supported the GCA of 1968 that created the form 4473. For those of us old enough to recall, the 1960s were a time of urban racial riots and combined with the assassinations, polls showed that most Americans favored gun registration laws.

Since 1968, anyone buying a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer must fill out ATF Form 4473. The Alcohol Tax Unit of the 1930s became the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms with the specific enforcement responsibility of the supervision of the use of this form.

Form 4473 asks 12 questions to determine if you are a prohibited person. When you purchase a firearm, your information from this form goes to the FBI’s National Information Center by phone call or computer where officials will verify whether you can purchase a firearm. The FBI’s NIC system has a data base of prohibited persons.

If you have the opportunity, stop by a gun store and ask to see the ATF Form 4473. Do a little homework in preparation for Part 2 of this series in which I discuss how the process has diverted from its original intent and design.

Linda Gilbertson is a former trooper with the Oregon State Police and former special agent with BATF. She is currently a firearms instructor in Arizona.

(5) comments


Looking forward to part two. Thank you

Bob Smith

"Since 1968, anyone buying a firearm from a licensed firearms dealer must fill out ATF Form 4473." I bought an AK at the Snowflake swapmeet, no forms to fill out just cash trading hands - the author conveniently leaves out the huge market in firearms that isn't taking place in gun stores.

Horse Rider

BATF form 4473 can also be found online. Dishonest answers to its questions constitute perjury although it seems this is rarely prosecuted.


So happy to see the truth be spoken here, looking forward to the next installment of the correct information.


Pro-2nd people are always throwing out the “Shall not be infringed” while ignoring the fact that their and everyone’s rights are already restricted and controlled by existing law. I mention to them the NFA 1934 and GCA 1968 and stress how those restrict what weapons a person may have and who ay have them. They ignore that and just double down on the Shall not be infringed. With rights come responsibilities.

It is refreshing to read Linda’s letter, honestly talking about this. However, she does not address steps that can be done to lessen gun violence and mass shootings which occur in the USA with far greater regularity than anywhere else except in an active war zone.

As with all safety measures, no one thing will stop the deaths or injuries. Each action contributes to the overall results. She mentions the form 4473, but that is only when purchasing from a licensed dealer. The background check they administer is only as good as the data behind it. If the data is not submitted to the proper authorities, it is useless. Perhaps her coming Part 2 will address her suggestions to deal with this continuous, growing issue?

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