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View Full Version : Huntsville man finds out his antique shotgun/pistol illegal under 1934 law


smince
October 11, 2009, 01:41 PM
http://blog.al.com/breaking/2009/10/post_41.html

Huntsville man finds out his antique shotgun/pistol illegal under 1934 law
By Victoria Cumbow
October 11, 2009, 6:42AM

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- When 81-year-old Carl Craig walked into Madison Guns & Ammo Tuesday, he didn't know the gun he was carrying was an illegal weapon.

Craig had a .410 gauge pistol, made sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

"The reason it is illegal is that it's a handgun that fires a shotgun shell," said David Hyche, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms resident agent in Huntsville and Birmingham.

The gun was handed down to Craig by his father about 60 years ago, but it's been kept in a box for most of that time. Earlier last week, Craig decided to have it appraised.

"It's a pretty unusual weapon," he said. "It's a shotgun, but it's a pistol."

After putting the gun's information into the computer system at Madison Guns, the store was notified the weapon was illegal, requiring the store to hold it until local ATF officers could inspect the gun.

While Craig didn't understand how the store could legally keep his personal property, he left without his gun. The next morning, he met with local ATF officers at the store to find out what the law said about his gun.

Tim Knox, owner of Madison Guns, said he had no choice but to confiscate the gun and contact the ATF once the computer said it was an illegal weapon.

"I could lose my federal firearms license, be fined up to $125,000 and go to prison for five years," Knox said. "My salesman could've been arrested, and Mr. Craig could've been arrested."

ATF's Hyche said Knox was correct in holding the gun, and ATF agents in Huntsville worked with Craig to make sure he could keep the gun.

To make this particular gun legal requires one of two things, Hyche said. Craig could have the gun rifled - have grooves cut into the barrel - or he could have the gun disassembled.

Before Craig left Madison Guns Wednesday, the gun was disassembled, and he was able to take the heirloom back home.

In 1934, the National Firearms Act outlawed short-barreled shotguns. Technically, Craig's antique gun is illegal under the law, but Hyche said the ATF's concern was figuring out a way to let Craig keep it.

"This happens all the time," he said. "We don't want (the gun) destroyed or take it away from the family."

He said it's common that people are left guns like this when family members die, and the best thing to do is contact the ATF.

"We don't want to charge any of those people," Hyche said. "We almost always find a way to accommodate the person."

zoomie
October 11, 2009, 01:58 PM
I think he was probably lucky he was dealing with ATF agents in Huntsville and not NYC.

zxcvbob
October 11, 2009, 02:20 PM
Since the gun was made before 1934, would the law really be enforceable? It would either be an ex post facto law, or a violation of the Takings Clause in the 5th Amendment.

Hkmp5sd
October 11, 2009, 02:32 PM
Since the gun was made before 1934, would the law really be enforceable?

You bet it is. Otherwise, every machinegun made before 1986 would be exempt from the machinegun ban.

Notice the one thing the ATF agent didn't say could be done to make it legal? Register it as a SBS. Cannot register after the fact.

shooter_from_show-me
October 11, 2009, 02:34 PM
Hmmm...I find this odd. Doesn't the Taurus Judge shoot .410 shells. Yes I know the pistol has a rifled barrel. But still smooth bore, rifled bore what is the big deal with that short of a barrel? It's a still a shotgun shell.:rolleyes: Poor guy...comes to have it appraised only to take it home in a box in pieces:(

zxcvbob
October 11, 2009, 02:41 PM
Hmmm...I find this odd. Doesn't the Taurus Judge shoot .410 shells. Yes I know the pistol has a rifled barrel. But still smooth bore, rifled bore what is the big deal with that short of a barrel? It's a still a shotgun shell. Poor guy...comes to have it appraised only to take it home in a box in pieces

Taurus Judge has a rifled barrel. That makes all the difference (even tho' it is only minimally rifled.)

Hkmp5sd
October 11, 2009, 02:43 PM
But still smooth bore, rifled bore what is the big deal with that short of a barrel?
Rifled barrel makes it a handgun by definition. A smooth barrel makes is a shotgun by defnition. The barrel length <18" and/or overall length <26" makes it an unregistered short barreled shotgun per the National Firearm Act of 1934.

BTW, the Taurus Judge is technically chambered for the .45 Long Colt cartridge.

BillCA
October 11, 2009, 02:59 PM
Hmmm...I find this odd. Doesn't the Taurus Judge shoot .410 shells. Yes I know the pistol has a rifled barrel. But still smooth bore, rifled bore what is the big deal with that short of a barrel? It's a still a shotgun shell.
The primary difference is that the Judge does have a rifled barrel and also fires pistol ammo (.45 Colt). If it had been chambered for only a shotgun round with a smooth bore, it would be illegal as a short-barreled-shotgun.

Mr. Craig probably had some form of pistol often called an "Auto Burglar" similar to the Ithaca 20ga model below. These were popular in the 20's & 30's until the NFA made them illegal without registration. They were more popular in 28-ga and .410 than in 20ga.

http://i241.photobucket.com/albums/ff111/BillCA/Hobby/misc/Ithaca_autoburglar_20.gif

The most amazing part of this story is the cooperation Mr. Craig received from the local ATF agent, David Hyche. It is usually the ATF that forces surrender of such weapons as a violation of the '34 NFA. Mr. Hyche should receive letters commending his actions in finding a way for Mr. Craig to keep a valuable collector's gun.

Especially in these hard times, if Mr. Craig can work out a way of legally transferring the gun to a museum or collector, he'll benefit and so will someone else.

Of course, we should keep a vigil eye out for a follow-up story where Hyche's bosses decide to raid Mr. Craig's house and prosecute him at a later date.

PTK
October 11, 2009, 03:46 PM
Bill,

More than likely it was a Handi-Gun or Game-Getter. Auto and Burglar guns were mostly in 20ga, from the catalogs I've seen. :)

Bill DeShivs
October 11, 2009, 07:50 PM
Ithaca Auto & Burglar guns were only made in 20 &28 ga. It was probably an H&R Handy Gun or similar.
Disassembly would not make the gun legal, under federal law-unless the barrel was destroyed.
And if the gun without a barrel is not a "firearm," could one get a SBS tax stamp and "make" it a SBS after installing the barrel? I know it originall falls in the AOW category, but could it be "remade" as an SBS? I have seen Handy Guns registered as SBS, rather than AOW. Perhaps this is why?

gyvel
October 12, 2009, 08:18 AM
Disassembly would not make the gun legal, under federal law-unless the barrel was destroyed.
And if the gun without a barrel is not a "firearm," could one get a SBS tax Ithaca Auto & Burglar guns were only made in 20 &28 ga. It was probably an H&R Handy Gun or similar.
stamp and "make" it a SBS after installing the barrel? I know it originall falls in the AOW category, but could it be "remade" as an SBS? I have seen Handy Guns registered as SBS, rather than AOW. Perhaps this is why?

You might be on to something there...:D

M4Sherman
October 12, 2009, 11:39 AM
I thought it was an AOW now a SBS due to it being a pistol....

David Hineline
October 13, 2009, 12:32 AM
I would like to see this gun shop computer system that knows something is an illegal weapon, only a contact to the ATF with serial number check could tell if it had been properly registered.

This story is full of mis information.

BillCA
October 13, 2009, 01:22 AM
Ithaca Auto & Burglar guns were only made in 20 &28 ga. It was probably an H&R Handy Gun or similar.

I think you're right. I'm relying on aging memory of something that was nearly extinct before my time. Except for the single example of an Ithaca 28ga Auto Burglar I once examined. Kind of a fun "little" gun.

PTK - The 20 gauge was certainly popular but I seem to recall someone saying the 28ga was more practical for the purpose. Either one would scrape a carjacker off the running boards of the cars back then.

Al Thompson
October 13, 2009, 10:51 AM
Tim Knox, owner of Madison Guns, said he had no choice but to confiscate the gun


I have a lot of problems with this statement. Unless old Tim is a cop, what he did was stealing.

PTK
October 13, 2009, 01:09 PM
Tim Knox, owner of Madison Guns, said he had no choice but to confiscate the gun

I have a lot of problems with this statement. Unless old Tim is a cop, what he did was stealing.

And illegal transfer of an NFA item, possession of an unregistered NFA item, etc.

Tim's pretty dumb.

Singlesix1954
October 28, 2009, 08:03 PM
The outcome of the story is good, but the gunstore guy did't give a rip snort about the old man. He didn't have to "know" about who had it. He could have told the old man to get it out of his store and then to contact ATF himself.

I heard of a Handy-Gun showing up at a estate clean up before an auction a few years ago. The auctioneer would not even come on the place with his equipment untill it was removed. Reserch was done, and a family member removed the fireing pin and welded the action shut. It now hangs on his wall in a shadow box in memory of his grandfather. No laws are broken and a family treasure is in a place of honor as it should be. The ATF was not called, but if they find and check this gun it has been made unfireable. It was done in a manner that left it appear untouched unless it is removed from the glass case and turned over.

Slamfire
October 28, 2009, 08:39 PM
Reserch was done, and a family member removed the fireing pin and welded the action shut. It now hangs on his wall in a shadow box in memory of his grandfather. No laws are broken and a family treasure is in a place of honor as it should be. The ATF was not called, but if they find and check this gun it has been made unfireable.

You would have to ask the ATF if welding the action shut is sufficient to keep someone out of jail.

They might say no.

Firearms that are Machine guns, violate the NFA, are pure poison. You just don't know if the ATF wants to make you the evil poster child of the year and nail your hide to the wall, or not.

You can find the threads, David Olofson went to jail because the AR15 he lent out, malfunctioned and doubled. The ATF took the position that it was a machine gun. The owner got 30 months in jail. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=68590

The ATF has gone after people with semi auto's that doubled because the free floating firing pin hit a sensitive commerical primer.

ssilicon
October 28, 2009, 09:40 PM
I don't think there is anything the store could have done if the man took his own property out of the store other than call it in. The store staff are not law enforcement officers and do not have the legal power to "confiscate" anyone's property. Just because a federal agency asks that they do that doesn't make it truly legal.

johnwilliamson062
October 29, 2009, 09:05 AM
I think a 1:400 twist would be best...

gyvel
November 1, 2009, 11:22 PM
I think a 1:400 twist would be best...

And on a more serious note, is there any "regulation'" "ruling" or "mandate" that stipulates how deep the rifling has to be?

Bill DeShivs
November 2, 2009, 01:59 AM
Not to my knowledge. Nor is there any stipulation that it has to be spiral.

gyvel
November 2, 2009, 03:53 AM
Not to my knowledge. Nor is there any stipulation that it has to be spiral.
__________________

Hmmmmm......:cool:

444
November 2, 2009, 02:23 PM
I have always wanted one of those.
I have looked a few times at them, but probably will never get one. I do have one of those Serbu Super Shorties in 12 guage and quickly discovered that the recoil is absolutely ferocious and it shoots about two feet higher than you think it should. I guess I don't need more stuff that really has no practical value: but I have always thought the Auto Burglar was very cool looking.
I knew someone that had one that got it pretty much under the same kind of circumstances: it was just something passed down through the family. I advised him that it was almost certainly an unregistered NFA weapon: he had no idea about this sort of thing.

johnnyh
November 2, 2009, 05:22 PM
Interesting.....I just joined your group and I have an H&R "Handy Gun", .410 (see picture).
When my Dad passed away back in 2001, my Mom gave it over to me. The story of the gun goes that my Grandfather, won it in a bet, in a beer bar, in Oregon.
I did the right thing (probably not the smart thing) I registered it with California DOJ. As I did a couple of other pistols I got from my Father. The Handy gun was registered as a relic / curio (I have the paperwork to prove it).
Just this afternoon, was getting some of my guns together for a weekend shooting trip to the desert this coming weekend. I called DOJ (the number on my registration paperwork and asked about taking it out to shoot it in the desert (If I were stopped on the road with it). They transferred me around until I got the VM of a lady in permits and licenses..........I did not leave a VM, read this thread looking for advice. It is back in my safe and will not be taken out of my house.

444
November 2, 2009, 05:53 PM
Very nice.

rdmallory
November 2, 2009, 08:05 PM
My T/C Encore pistol has a 410/45Lc barrel and even has a screw in choke.

Doug

bamaranger
November 20, 2009, 03:10 AM
could have it been a marble game getter?????????

James K
November 20, 2009, 03:38 PM
Believe it or not, most BATFE agents are not JBTs or mindless robocops, but that is a tough law to enforce with any charity. The law simply does not allow for what they did. Everything will work out because they went an extra mile to do the right thing, but I cannot help wondering if they were more concerned with adverse publicity than with trying for real justice.

Jim

Old Wanderer
November 20, 2009, 10:43 PM
Way back in the 1960's I picked up a Ithica 20ga Auto/Burglar gun....I was in California then, and there was a gun store and gun smith every few miles in Los Angeles at that time. (Think I paid about $100 for it).

Other than silencers and full auto, nobody much cared much about what you had.

In the 1970's a "friend" borrowed my Ithica, got a DUI and had it in the car...bye bye gun, otherwise I would probably still have it.

It was a perfect gun if you had a pocket on your door to put it in. Easy to get to if you needed it. I think I settled on #5 buckshot for it.

dewcrew8
November 21, 2009, 12:17 AM
whats the law about black powder then? i know someone that bought one from a gun shop and nothing was said. dbl barrel , 12 inches of steel and the oal was 24inches. the only thing the shop said is if you shoot it the valuim wood go down on it.it has that gold pictures thing going on it !

dweathers
November 21, 2009, 12:31 AM
What about the "Howdah" pistols Cabelas sells? They're black powder dbl shotgun pistol things. Are they legal because they're black powder?

Bill DeShivs
November 21, 2009, 01:49 AM
Black powder guns are exempt from NFA rules.

63chuck
November 21, 2009, 08:56 PM
I don't buy it. My old auto burglar is illegal. Numerous calls to ATF over a number of years cannot help. Maybe I should call Hyche.

ArcticNemo
November 22, 2009, 10:27 AM
Black powder guns are exempt from NFA rules.

Muzzleloading guns are exempt. Cartridges are cartridges, regardless of powder type. Unless you push the projectile into the weapon from the same end it will exit from, it is not a muzzleloader. The "inline" guns get a little fuzzy.

Bill DeShivs
November 22, 2009, 02:07 PM
Correct. I was tired....

bcrash15
November 23, 2009, 08:52 PM
Just to throw this info out, in Alabama, as far as I am aware, SBR and SBS are currently prohibited by state law, so that's probably why this was not ever considered by the concerned parties.

SwampYankee
November 23, 2009, 11:28 PM
I think a 1:400 twist would be best...

HA! I love it!

My FFL just got a visit from the ATF. They called ahead of time. Normally they do not but so many shops are going out of business they hate to show up and have the store be empty (I guess they'll probably come to your home in that case to take your books). Anyway, the FFL was not pleased about the visit. They had no cause, just a random check.

But he said it went really well. He keeps very good records and they ATF guy was plenty satisfied. The funny part was this ATF guy said something like, "Yeah, I'm not going to rake you over the coals. If you were managed by other agent in the office, we'd be here for days going through these boxes" Apparently they are supposed to check the last 100 transfers. Thoroughly. This guy did half a dozen of them and wrapped up in a couple hours.

freakintoguns
November 24, 2009, 01:29 AM
>sigh< the NFA and AWB are useless....... when will they learn?