The authorities soon found themselves out-gunned and out-manned by organized criminals and the single offenders such as notorious bank robbers ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, Bonny and Clyde Barrow, Jon Dillinger, and ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd. The Justice department and the U.S. Congress were blatantly informed of the need to take action after an incident in Kansas City, Montana on June 17, 1933. Three bad boys, Vernon Miller, Pretty Boy Floyd, and his sidekick Adam Richetti attempted to free Frank ‘Jelly’ Nash from the custody of FBI and local police. The submachine gun ambush outside a train station resulted in the death of Nash, two police officers and an FBI agent and leaving one FBI agent badly wounded. The response to this tragic event led to changes that effected FBI agents and gun control.
Congress made vital changes to the authority of the FBI. In 1934, they were allowed to acquire their first Thompson submachine guns. In fact, before this time the FBI didn’t carry guns at all or have the authority to make arrests. Congress also cracked down on the availability of “gangster weapons” which included machine guns, hand grenades, and sawed-off shotguns.
The plan was to impose a high tax and hefty registration fees to legally possess these types of weapons, which would ultimately dry up the market and wither away the public supply—or so was the thinking behind it. The 1934 National Firearm Act (NFA) imposed a $200 tax (which interestingly has not changed since 1934) on most NFA firearms, including firearm mufflers and silencers, machine guns, shot guns and rifles (with barrels less than 18 inches), and other firearms that would fall under the blanket term of “any other weapons”.
The NFA required registration of all firearms with the Secretary of the Treasury, which was generally acceptable in the eyes of most responsible gun owners.