Myth: The ATF Can Search My House

Granted, the ATF is not the most transparent federal agency, but I hear a lot of myths about the ATF from clients and friends. One of the most prevalent goes along the lines of this: “If I buy a NFA firearm I have to waive my fourth amendment right and allow the police to search my house whenever they want.” Fortunately, this is not true.

Purchasing a NFA firearm does not require you to give up any constitutional rights such as the fourth amendment right to be free from searches and seizures. If the police want to search you or your home then they must have probable cause. (And owning a NFA firearm, no matter how menacing or cool, is not probable cause.)  Additionally, if time permits, the police must acquire a warrant by proving to a judge that they have probable cause. The ATF cannot knock on your door and demand to inspect your home just because you own a NFA firearm.

I have had some people argue that mere knowledge you own a NFA firearm will make the police more likely to search you or your house. I don’t believe this is true in South Carolina, and regardless, the police must still show probable cause. However, if this is a true concern, you can avoid this issue by buying NFA firearms through a trust. A trust does not require the local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) sign off, and the paperwork you file to the ATF is a private tax document. South Carolina state, county, and municipal police are not informed when a trust buys a NFA firearm. The police cannot be influenced, consciously or sub-consciously, by knowledge they do not have.

Merely owning a properly registered NFA firearm does not subject you to random searches, and if you use a trust, South Carolina law enforcement need not be notified the trust owns the firearm. If you are thinking about buying a NFA firearm in South Carolina consider the benefits of a properly designed NFA Trust, and do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions.