In 1968 Congress opened a thirty (30) day amnesty period where any person possessing an unregistered NFA firearm could register said NFA firearm for free and without liability for any previous violations of the law. During this time hundreds of firearms were registered including many war trophies.
The actual law allowed for up to ninety days and three amnesty periods, but the Treasury Department (then managing the NFA) did not see fit to use the last two periods and sixty days. Since then many collectors have pondered whether the ATF would take advantage of the law and offer another amnesty period.
Unfortunately the ATF has taken the position that 18 USC § 922(O) would prevent the registration of new machine guns under the current amnesty law, and that any amnesty would obstruct ongoing investigations. Therefore no amnesty periods have been enacted by the ATF since the original amnesty in 1968.
Congress, however, does not have to wait on the ATF. On June 26th, a pair of Senators and a pair of Representatives introduced bi-partisan legislation to allow for the amnesty registration of war trophies acquired outside of the Continental United States prior to 1968. The bills can be found at S. 1435 in the Senate and H.R. 3054 in the House.
Currently, each bill has been introduced by a Republican and is cosponsored by an Independent in the Senate and a Democrat in the House: Thus garnering the coveted ‘bi-partisan’ description.
What will the bill allow?
While the full text is not yet available, the bill reportedly allows veterans, or their families, to register, for free, NFA Firearms that were acquired outside of the Continental United States by a veteran prior to 1968. I will provide a full analysis at a later time when the text is available.
So what are the chances at passing?
I am inclined to say ‘not likely.’ However, this is not the first time such legislation has been introduced. During the 2011 congressional session a similar pair of bills were introduced. In the House 230 members cosponsored the bill: thus more than half of the house were sponsors. In the Senate 21 Senators joined in cosponsoring the bill, and many Democrats joined as sponsors of the bills.
With this much historic support, even under an administration openly hostile to firearms and firearm collectors, it seems possible that these bills just might garner enough support to pass. However, with all that Congress is handling, it is unlikely that something of this nature will be top priority. Ultimately, we will need to see how many members join as cosponsors after the July 4th recess is over.
Right now we have too little information to comment on the mechanics of the bill, and it is too early to get a good gauge on the possibility of success. Fortunately previous bills had large bipartisan support, but unfortunately the same bills were not voted upon in either chamber of Congress. I’ll keep a watch on these bills, and if you have a veteran’s firearm in the family then you too should keep an eye on these bills.
As an aside, I have helped clients check on the registration status of NFA firearms, and in many instances the guns are registered and transferrable. If you are wondering about a firearm, do not hesitate to reach out to me in confidence to discuss your situation.