Guns laws in the US are complex. The National Firearms Act, and its various revisions and additions, were meant to cut down on crime. Yet many of the guns that were outlawed are not ever used in criminal activity. Consider some of the machine guns brought back from WWI and WWII. These trophies of war were not uncommon. Many don’t even work. Should they be classified as machine guns?
New legislation being introduced in both the House and the Senate aims to clarify existing regulations by allowing vets or their families 180 days to register guns captured overseas.
Guns.com, reporting on the development, describes it like this:
“The bipartisan Veterans Heritage Firearms Act aims to allow former service members or their family to declare guns brought back to the states before Oct. 31, 1968, without fear of prosecution. Sponsors argue the bill will save historical artifacts that have become treasured, but legally risky, family heirlooms.”
That 1968 date is significant. Beyond that point, the vast majority of guns encountered by Americans were some versions of the AK-47.
The bill is being sponsored by a veteran. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark is the cosponsor. “Our World War II and Korean War Veterans risked their lives in foreign lands in defense of our freedoms,” Cotton said. “These firearms represent the sacrifices they made in the name of duty and are often treasured keepsakes.”
This doesn’t mean that the guns won’t be registered with the ATF, or that they won’t be considered as machine guns. They will. The open registration period is simply a grace period to keep people who own these guns now from facing prosecution for their possession.
Why is this an issue now? The problem is this. Many vets kept these guns locked away in their homes, only showing them to family members. When these vets pass away, the family then has to deal with an estate that is illegally in possession of an unregistered machine gun. Most family members aren’t even aware of the violation, which can result in a 10 year prison sentence.
Guns.com cites an example:
“Marine John Sullivan, during the Pacific island-hopping campaign of World War II, recovered a Japanese Type 99 light machine gun from a pillbox on Iwo Jima. Although unregistered in the NFRTR, Sullivan placed the weapon on display for over three decades over his bar until one day in 1981 when the law came looking for it. The gun was only saved from the scrap heap by extraordinary efforts from local and federal law enforcement that eventually saw it put on display at a local museum.”
H.R. 3054, the House version, is backed by U.S. Reps. David Poe, R-Tenn., and Lou Correa, D-Calif.
“Giving these heroes the opportunity to register their antique firearms will allow families to preserve these historical artifacts as an important part of their family heritage,” said Poe.
And it would keep law-abiding Americans from being treated like common criminals by the judiciary system. Win-win.