From the 1900’s to the 1930’s, armed conflicts between corporations and workers erupted across several states that became known as the “Coal Wars.”
The most famous battle of the Coal Wars occurred in Logan County, West Virginia in 1921. It was called the Battle of Blair Mountain.
It started with a simple spark, as most conflicts tend to do.
Armed agents working for the Stone Mountain Coal Company evicted a woman from her home. The woman, her children and their belongings were tossed out in the rain . . . at gunpoint.
The town’s Police Chief didn’t take too kindly to the actions of the company thugs and confronted them. The men, acting on the authority of the coal company, were bold enough to tell the Police Chief that they had a warrant for his arrest.
The Chief took a look at the supposed warrant, claimed it was bogus and a gunfight broke out.
The Police Chief was Sid Hatfield . . . as in the Hatfields of West Virginia.
For those familiar with the infamous Hatfield family, it’s no surprise that the agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency didn’t make it out alive.
The town’s mayor, an ally of Hatfield and the coal miners was also killed in the skirmish.
Tensions escalated to the point that Sid Hatfield (who became known as Smilin’ Sid) converted the murdered mayor’s jewelry store into a gun shop and then deputized and armed the mineworkers.
Months later, Baldwin-Felts agents caught up with Sid Hatfield on the steps of a courthouse and gunned him down in front of his own wife.
To no surprise, total war broke out within days.
13,000 armed and angry coal miners faced a private army of 3,000 men backed by the county sheriff.
The “law enforcement” side, which was really funded by coal companies, was armed with machine guns and even a ram-shackle air force that dropped leftover WWI bombs and chemical weapons on the miners.
The battle was broken up days later when President Harding sent in federal troops.
Fast-forward another decade and yet another storm was brewing between corporations and miners in Kentucky that became known as the Harlan County War.
The conflict smoldered for years until government stepped in.
Led by Franklin Roosevelt who was struggling through the Great Depression and a Democrat majority in both the House and the Senate, the feds swooped in with sweeping changes.
First the 73rd Congress guaranteed collective bargaining rights for workers (creating even more problems and the Union Wars).
Then in 1934, three years into the Harlan County War, Congress passed the National Firearms Act that applied a $200 “tax stamp” on automatic weapons, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, suppressors, destructive devices and other “concealable” weapons.
The NFA originally included pistols.
While revisionist history claims that the NFA was created as a result of Prohibition Era violence, specifically the St. Valentines Massacre that occurred in 1929 (two Thompson sub-machine guns were used in the crime), that narrative was created so the government could have a “bad guy” to blame.
The real threat taking place was one to the government and well-heeled corporations.
America’s working population was made up of tens of millions of military veterans who had been hardened by World War I.
While these men returned from the Great War with peace in mind, they came home to robber barons and corporations that were enslaving the working class while the government sided with those who had the most money.
The federal government’s top priority was make sure that WWI veterans would never have access to more firepower than the government could deploy while giving corporations the ability to defend themselves from their workers . . . hence the $200 tax stamp (in today’s dollars, $3,658).
Citizens were disarmed, the Mafia boogeyman was blamed and the government was kept safe from its own people.
In 2017, the National Fireams Act of 1934 remains in full effect.
Legislation that was created to disarm working class Americans and required them to be controlled by wealthy “masters” and the government is an offensive remnant of history and deserves repeal.
Today, veterans returning from the War on Terror are demanding the full repeal of the NFA.
A petition created by these veterans on the White House’s site to repeal the NFA is waiting for your signature.
And please, comment below.