The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA), Pub. L. No. 99-308, 100 Stat. 449 (May 19, 1986), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 921 et seq., is a United States federal law that revised many statutes in the Gun Control Act of 1968.
Federal Firearms License regulatory reform
Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, now the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) was given wide latitude on the enforcement of regulations pertaining to Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders. Allegations of abuse by ATF inspectors soon arose from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and certain targeted Federal firearms licensees.
Machine gun ban (The Hughes Amendment)
As debate for FOPA was in its final stages, Rep. William J. Hughes (D-N.J.) proposed an amendment (House Amendment 777 to H.R. 4332) to ban the civilian ownership or transfer of any fully-automatic weapon which was not registered by May 19, 1986. However, any such weapon manufactured and registered before the May 19 cutoff could still be legally owned and transferred by civilians.
“Safe passage” provision
One of the law’s provisions was that persons traveling from one place to another cannot be arrested for a firearms offense in a state that has strict gun control laws if the traveler is just passing through (short stops for food and gas and presumably overnight stops on long trips excepted) and the firearms and ammunition are not immediately accessible, unloaded and, in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, in a locked container.
Clarification of prohibited persons
The older Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits firearms ownership in the US by certain broad categories of individuals thought to pose a threat to public safety. However, this list differed between the US House and the US Senate versions of the bill, and led to great confusion. This list was later augmented, modified, and clarified in the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986. The 1986 list is: