The Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA) was passed in 1986. It had several major effects.
1: Limit the ATF to only inspecting a gun dealer once per year unless part of an active investigation. Previously, ATF was constantly inspecting gun dealers as a form of harassment.
2 – Safe Passage: Allow people to transport locked, unloaded firearms through areas that usually ban guns. It’s not nice to arrest people who are just driving though town. It kinda interferes with interstate commerce. Safe Passage allows someone to only stop for fuel, food, and rest. Any other stops remove the protections of the Safe Passage clause.
3 – Registry Prohibition: The Federal gov’t is explicitly forbidden to keep any kind of national gun registration, or to force states to keep any kind of gun registration.
4 – Clarify prohibited gun owners: the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA 68) forbids certain people (felons, drug addicts, illegal aliens, etc) from owning guns. FOPA 1986 clarifies exactly who is and is not forbidden.
5 – Hughes Amendment: Restrict private citizens from buying any machineguns manufacturered after 1986. We can still buy machineguns that were made & registrered before May, 1986 but they typically sell for 10 times more than a semi-auto clone.
Here’s the problems:
1 – ATF is still harassing gun dealers. Look into the “Red’s Trading Post” fiasco. All ATF needs to do is find an innocent spelling mistake and claim that it’s a “willful paperwork violation”. Then they can continue harassing the gun dealer as part of their “investigation”. The “willful” part of the mistake was specifically added to prevent the ATF from persecuting gun dealers for minor unintentional errors, but that’s been about as effective as any other restraint on government power.
2 – Various locations such as NYC and New Jersey ignore safe passage laws, or interpret them as narrowly as possible. You are a felon in NJ if you stop for gasoline or food on your way driving to/from a shooting range. Gun owners have been arrested for transporting firearms through New York airports DESPITE complying with TSA and FOPA. In one case, a man was arrested in NYC, basically because the airline screwed him over. He was downgraded off a flight, rescheduled for a flight the next day, and sent to a local hotel. He was arrested the next day because he had stopped briefly in NYC with a gun. He would have been protected if he’d stayed in the airport.
3 – The ATF openly admits to keeping records, and these records combine to create a de facto gun registry. When a gun store goes out of business, ATF gets all of the gun store’s records. It isn’t complete, but it has hundreds of millions of entries. Also, a few years ago, the AFT started demanding that gun stores in 4 states contact ATF anytime anyone buys 2+ centerfire semiauto rifles in a week. FOPA explicity forbids it! More on this later.
So, the only parts of FOPA that still have power are the parts that restrict people from buying guns while the gov’t ignores the restrictions it doesn’t like.