A Call For Another General Amnesty Of NFA Firearms
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Most people believe it is illegal to own a machine gun. Contrary to that belief, machine guns are completely legal - provided they are registed with the federal government. Thousands are owned by lawful shooters and collectors in the United States. Before 1934, all firearms (including machine guns) were owned and possessed - without restriction - by individuals in the United States. Since the passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA), Federal law permits individuals to own pistols with shoulder stocks, machine guns and other restricted firearms - provided they are registered with the BATF in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR). Today, there are over 1,200,000 registrations in the file! Registered NFA weapons have proven to be no threat to public safety. Even BATF admitted these registered firearms have never been used in any crime, except for one used by a police officer in a crime of passion.

After passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act, BATF began administratively removing certain specified firearms from the registration requirement of the NFA - by classifying them as "primarily collectors items and not likely to be used as a weapon. (C&R List Section III) BATF also determined these were "Curios and Relics". Many others were found to be antiques (pre-1898) and completely exempt from registration. (C&R List Section IIIA) These firearms include many (but not all!) pistols with shoulder stocks, some short barreled rifles, certain smooth-bore shot pistols, most cane guns, and many others in the 'any other weapon' category. Many of these firearms had been registered in the NFRTR. With (perhaps) few exceptions, the registrations were not removed from the NFRTR and still exist to clutter the files.

As a side note, it is interesting to note how quickly tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of these rare collector items appeared on the market! Many shoulder stocked pistols still have their original matching numbered shoulder stocks. Since they were illegal (or registered) from 1934 until 1970 (some 36 years), it makes us wonder if there was (is?) wide-spread civil disobedience regarding collector guns?

The BATF also classified many, many other NFA weapons (including machine guns) as "Curios and Relics" - historically significant, of higher monetary value - thus not likely to be used as a weapon, but these have not been removed from the NFRTR registration requirement.

Serious and significant errors and problems exist with the NFRTR file. As a direct result innocent citizens are at risk of financial loss and/or felony prosecutions by BATF. ANY violation of the NFA is a serious felony, with penalties up to $10,000 and 10 years imprisonment per violation! The burden of proof is on YOU (not the government) to prove your NFA weapon was registered! If you lose your paperwork you could be convicted of a felony - if BATF is unable (or unwilling) to locate the registration in the NFRTR.

We ask for your active support for efforts to remedy these problems now underway by the following (among others!):
(1) Rep. Don Sherwood
(2) Rep. James A. Gibbons
(3) Rep. John T. Hostettler
(4) Rep. Ernest J. Istook, Jr.
(5) Sen. Bob Smith

In testimony before the Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government of the Committee on Appropriations - May 1, 2001, Mr. Eric Larson documented many of these problems. The Treasury IG has also investigated and documented these and additional problems ( OIG-99-009, dated October 26, 1998, and OIG-99-018, dated December 18, 1998). The problems and errors include:

  • Thousands of registrations to dead persons (firearm whereabouts unknown - Unknown disposition)
  • Duplicate registrations (same weapon registered to different persons)
  • Duplicate registrations (same weapon registered twice to the same person)
  • Unknown numbers of registrations destroyed by BATF employees
  • Unknown numbers of transfers which BATF failed to update in the NFRTR.
  • Unknown numbers of legal transfers destroyed by BATF employees.
  • Unknown number of erroneous updates to registrations by BATF employees
  • Thousands of existing registrations no longer required because requirement was administratively removed by BATF.
  • Many registrations are for guns now defined as antiques and exempt from registration.
  • Registrations for guns never required to be registered.
  • Illegal registrations allowed when BATF failed to follow their own amnesty procedures and allowed such registrations beyond the 1968 amnesty.
  • Registrations to incorrect or obsolete addresses.
  • Incorrect or inaccurate serial numbers
  • Mispelled or inaccurate names.
  • Mispelled or inaccurate make or model.
  • Registrations for non-existent weapons (spurious registrations).
  • Current location of many (if not most) registered NFA firearms is unknown.
  • In other words, BATF has lost track of hundreds of thousands of machine guns, and other restricted firearms! Where are they? Who owns them? BATF doesn't know! However, BATF repeatedly states "...we do not believe that the fact that an individual registrant is deceased affects the accuracy of the Record or that it make the registry unreliable or ineffective as a law enforcement tool. To the contrary, the registry is reliable and effective for law enforcement purposes...."

    So, although BATF doesn't know how many machine guns are registered, who has them, nor where they are, if they can't find yours in their file, you can go to jail!

    To try to cover their tail, BATF recently began an expensive program to "image and index" the NFRTR - "back to 1934", knowing full well the file contains thousands of erroneous, obsolete and irrelevant records. Is this how you want your tax dollars spent? Recently, Congress allocated an additional $500,000 for BATF to "clean up" the NFRTR ( Public Law 107-67). However, BATF has consistantly denied the problems (including many in the Inspector General investigations!). Consequently, we have no confidence that the problems will be corrected - or even addressed. ( See Neal Knox report )

    Why should any citizen be subjected to the risk of prosecution and financial loss for trying to comply with the law by contacting BATF about their NFA firearm? - or, for that matter, any firearm? In many cases, only an expert can identify certain firearms that require registration! (See illustrations below) Further, many other firearms have been reclassified by BATF as NFA firearms long after they were sold to citizens and in general circulation! BATF appears far more interested in pursuing their own agenda - by prosecuting citizens and confiscating guns, than in helping citizens comply with the law. It's no wonder that many law-abiding citizens are terrified of contacting BATF for advice - or for any other reason. They well remember BATF's ill-advised and botched raid at WACO (reported by 60 Minutes (Mike Wallace) as a BATF publicity stunt which resulted in the death of the Branch Davidian members - and they remember the Ruby Ridge fiasco! - where a government sniper killed Vicki Weaver and the court ordered the government to pay $ 3.1 million dollars (of your tax dollars) in a wrongful death settlement.

    BATF policy toward DEWATs (Deactivated War Trophy - welded machine guns) has drastically changed over the years. These guns were welded so they could never be fired and many thousands were lawfully sold to innocent citizens. Since then, BATF changed their mind and decided DEWATs had to be registered, but to the best of our knowledge, provided no method for registration! Consequently, thousands of 'illegal' DEWATs are in basements, garages and attics all over the country. A similar situation exists for DEMILs (Demilitarized firearms), which have been cut so they cannot be fired. However, BATF still considers some to be NFA firearms which must be registered!

    The laws and policies of the United States regarding machine guns (and other restricted firearms and devices) are the laughingstock of many civilized countries in the world. In those countries, when an unregistered machine gun is found, it is not a crime. They simply register it - so it can then be controlled. These countries are not interested in prosecuting citizens for minor technical violations. The possession of a machine gun or other restricted firearm is a victimless crime - where no one is harmed by mere ownership or possession. These countries recognize that the criminal use of the gun is the problem - not simple possession! In England, France and Finland, silencers are not controlled in any way - in fact, they are encouraged so you don't disturb your neighbors! DEWATs [welded up machine guns] are not considered to be guns at all - ownership and sales are not restricted in any way.

    There is a simple solution - Another general amnesty!

    Under Section 207(d) of the Gun Control Act of 1968, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to establish unlimited numbers of amnesty periods, not to exceed 90 days each, after publication of notice of his intention to do so in the Federal Register. A 30 day amnesty was declared in Nov./Dec., 1968, but none since! BATF has consistently objected to another amnesty - even though multiple amnesties were the specific intent of Congress in 1968! Many people think BATF should have other, more important work to do instead of prosecuting otherwise honest citizens for technical violations and spending time objecting to an amnesty - especially considering the September 11 attack.

    An amnesty would benefit veterans who shipped a NFA war trophy home and didn't realize it was supposed to be registered, or simply neglected to register it, or lost their registration. During such an amnesty, all citizens should be able to register, re-register, or resolve problems with the registration without fear of prosecution or confiscation! They should also be able to obtain a ruling whether their gun needed to be registered - or not.

    In November 1968, following passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act as specifically authorized under the law, the federal government initiated a 30-day amnesty to allow registration of previously unregistered firearms - no questions asked. No background check was performed, nor was the registration verified in any way. Over 50,000 firearms were registered during this period.

    However, many people were:

  • unaware of the amnesty,
  • unaware of the requirement to register specific firearms,
  • were unaware they owned a firearm that needed to be registered,
  • were unable to provide the required information in the specified time,
  • could not obtain the registration forms, or
  • feared the government would not honor the amnesty terms and they would be prosecuted.

    In addition, many individuals with shoulder stocked pistols intentionally did not register them because of the required $200 transfer tax on any subsequent sale. The same pistol without the shoulder stock was not required to be registered.
  • As a member of a gun collectors organization at the time (1968), I have personal knowledge that many people were afraid to take advantage of the amnesty. Many thought the government would not honor the amnesty, and they would be prosecuted. If that amnesty was honored as promised, they would register their guns in the next amnesty However, since 1968, none have been offered.

    No congressional action is necessary to declare an amnesty. However, Congressional action may well be necessary to require the Secretary to act!

    Your active support is needed. Please write your Senators and Congressmen. NRA members, please contact the NRA to ask for their support, and ask your collectors club for their support.

    To locate your Congressman, Click Here
    To locate your Senators, Click Here

    For additional information, please visit:

    Send email to larsone@starpower.net with questions or comments about errors in the NFRTR.

    Which is the NFA firearm, and which is not?
    A mistake could put you in jail and cost you $10,000 in fines - or far worse!
    Anybody remember WACO?

    CLUE: (It's the one on the right)
    The one on the left is a rare semi-auto version.

    One more time, which is the NFA firearm, and which is not?

    CLUE: The one on top is probably ok..... probably.
    We're not too sure about the one on the bottom.....or is it the other way around?

    How about these two - which is the NFA firearm, and which is not?

    We don't know either!
    But you could be prosecuted by BATF if you possess the wrong one!

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