View Full Version : Amnesty Period

June 29, 2011, 11:10 AM

Tester moves to protect combat veterans’ trophy firearms
Senator presses officials to open a registration period based on bipartisan legislation

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, is urging federal officials to allow American combat veterans to legally register firearms they acquired on the field of battle.

American veterans who acquired certain types of weapons during combat under rules of military conflict—guns known as “trophy” firearms—are often unable to legally register the weapons, which means those veterans could be charged with illegal possession of firearms.

Tester introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this year to open a 90-day period for veterans and their families to register firearms for legal ownership—guns acquired during World War II and the Korean War, when servicemembers were allowed to legally acquire relic firearms. The bill would apply specifically to machineguns and other automatic firearms, and would not impact more common trophy weapons like bolt-action rifles or semi-automatic pistols, which do not need to be registered.

Tester’s legislation is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and backed by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"It is important to protect veterans and members of our armed forces from unnecessary prosecution and give them a viable path to comply with federal law," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "Those who fought to preserve our freedom should not be penalized for their desire to lawfully own firearms from the battlefield."

In a letter with McCain, Tester today pushed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Director Kenneth Melson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to use their authority to implement a registration period like the one called for by the legislation.

“It is critical that we give our veterans another 90-day amnesty period to comply with the law without fear of penalty,” Tester and McCain wrote. “If an amnesty is not provided, we will be further convinced that legislation is necessary in order for our veterans to register their lawfully obtained firearms.”

A copy of Tester’s bipartisan Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act is available on his website, HERE.

Tester’s letter to Holder and Melson, available online HERE, appears below.


The Hon. Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Mr. Kenneth E. Melson
Acting Director
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Office of Public and Governmental Affairs
99 New York Avenue, NE, Room 5S 144
Washington, DC 20226 USA

Dear Attorney General Holder and Acting Director Melson:

We write to urge you to use your authority to provide an amnesty period during which veterans and their family members can register certain firearms in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.

Congress granted a 30-day amnesty in 1968 and provided for the establishment of additional amnesty periods not exceeding 90 days per period. However, no amnesty periods have been provided since then. As a result, there are a number of firearms in gun safes, attics and collections that are still unregistered. It is critical that we give our veterans another 90-day amnesty period to comply with the law without fear of penalty. Our legislation is drafted with this goal in mind.

Out of concern for this issue, on April 12, 2011, we introduced S. 798, the Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act, to enable a veteran who acquired an eligible firearm during military service, to register that gun in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Our legislation applies to war trophy firearms acquired outside the continental United States lawfully according to military regulations.

We urge you to use your authority to implement a 90-day amnesty for veterans and their family members to register these firearms. If an amnesty is not provided, we will be further convinced that legislation is necessary in order for our veterans to register their lawfully obtained firearms.


Senator Jon Tester
Senator John McCain

James K
June 29, 2011, 03:11 PM
If that bill is introduced, Amendment #1, backed by every Democrat and some Repblicans, will be to add semi-autos to the definition of a machinegun. And it would take only one manufactured "incident" to get it passed. I am not sure it is worth taking the chance.


June 29, 2011, 08:39 PM
No it is not. Well intentioned but we know what the road to Hell is paved with.

Really, most of these guns are held by guys who have no idea that they even require registration, and it's doubtful that very many of them would come up with the documents required for registration. The long view is, in my opinion, that the years after an amnesty period would make it impossible to avoid prosecution when these weapons do finally come to light. After all, they had an amnesty in 1968, and then another in 2011(or whenever) so failure to register them during either of these amnesty periods would be clear evidence that they were illegally held and the owner should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Just let the existing laws alone. Any unregistered guns can be cut up and the parts salvaged, and the receivers could then be used to build semi's as we do every day.

June 29, 2011, 09:12 PM
An actual bill would have slight upside, and potential for massive downside, no thanks.

Having watched the last 11ish years of what the legislative branch of the government has managed to do in it's various majorities and splits I have almost 0 faith that any sort of meaningful NFA reform will happen in the near future. That leaves the judicial rout, and with just basic RKBA individual right affirmation coming in the last couple of years, I don't see the body of work to mount a successful challenge to the '86 GCA or the '34 NFA being there for, maby, 10 years...that is just my personal opinion.

Dr. Strangelove
June 30, 2011, 12:59 AM
These threads pop up form time to time, and I have always wondered:

Were US troops ever authorized to bring home full auto weapons as war trophies? You hear about the guys mailing them in pieces, etc., but could you actually get papers on a full auto weapon to bring home?

I don't travel in those circles, but most of the unregistered full auto weapons I have seen were sold here in the US when they were legally allowed to be produced, and then just never got registered for whatever reason.

June 30, 2011, 02:09 AM
this would be nice. many people brought home weapons of the dead during vietnam...it was pretty much as easy as just taking the rifle apart for the trip

June 30, 2011, 12:13 PM
Dr. S, There was a Navy Seal that taught scuba in Athens that supposedly brought an AK-47 that he picked up in Nam as a "war trophy" back home. And a VFW to the north west of you had a German Maxim machine gun on a sled mount that had been brought back by a vet from WWI.

Always heard that soliders were allowed one "war trophy" and only had to do the paper work to bring it back. A fellow in Jefferson brought back 3 Jap rifles and had them as a display in his gas station. There were also a lot of garands and 1911s that came back around Athens.

John Paty
July 4, 2011, 12:21 AM
Until 1968, soldiers could get paperwork to bring back captured weapons, including full-autos.

July 4, 2011, 12:25 AM
that explains my Dad and I don't have to worry if it was illegally done. he was in nam 1967-68

44 AMP
July 4, 2011, 02:54 PM
If the bringback was a functional machine gun (select fire is a machine gun under the law), not a DEWAT, then, to be legal it had to be registered, and the tax paid. Up until 1986, the law allowed you to register and own it.

Lots of guys got the paperwork for the bringback, but didn't always register it with the ATF after getting home. Lots of others just brought stuff back, no paperwork from anyone.

There was an amnesty period (ended in 68) where previously unregistered (and therefore illegal) guns could be registered, taxes paid, and legally owned.

Until May 1986, machine guns that were "discovered" could still be registered. SO finding out Granpa brought back a BAR or tommygun, or Dad brought home an AK, after they had passed away, you could register it, pay the tax, and keep it. All that ended in 1986.

Understand that for decades, Uncle Sam's attitude to trophy machine guns was usually "oh, didn't register it? That's a tax violation. Pay the tax, register the gun, and we'll forget about charges...." That changed drastically around the 1960s, and since then the attitude is "thats a Fed Firearms FELONY! Your's looking at 10 years"...and everything that goes with it." And, since 1986, you are not ALLOWED to register it. Period.

As much as I hate the current laws, and would love to see the registry reopened, it is a very, very risky subject to bring up. Everyone "knows" that only govt agencies and bad guys have (or want) machine guns. They have been taught this by decades of the media and entertainment industry. Most non enthusiasts don't know there is any legal machine gun ownership allowed.

And many people, who are otherwise all for gun rights, draw the line at machine guns. Opening the subject up to public scrutiny seriously risks the tiny legal avenue for ownership that we have left. I don't see it worth the risk, at this time.

Dr. Strangelove
July 6, 2011, 01:46 AM
And many people, who are otherwise all for gun rights, draw the line at machine guns. Opening the subject up to public scrutiny seriously risks the tiny legal avenue for ownership that we have left. I don't see it worth the risk, at this time.

Also add the fact that most casual gun owners couldn't give a rip about laws pertaining to automatic weapons, simply because it's not something they see as ever effecting their lives. Automatic weapons are simply too expensive to own and operate for the vast majority of the gun owning public.

July 9, 2011, 12:08 PM
Forget about an amnesty. Re-open the registry. Period!

The government could make MILLIONS if not BILLIONS of dollars in taxes not only from new production firearms BUT could make a fortune selling surplus weapons that they currently cannot sell to civilians because of a ridiculous law.

Weapons used by the military are PAID FOR with money FROM OUR TAX dollars. Currently, most surplus weapons are either destroyed, left behind or given to foreign countries (because we apparantly don't give enough other forms of aid.)

If the registry was re-opened, WE could PAY THEM for the surplus/used weapons, which WE already bought new FOR THEM with FROM OUR TAXES and
PAY THEM even more TAX money because of a TAX law THEY created FOR US.

Imagine if you borrowed/stole money from your friend to buy yourself a sports car AND never paid him back other than occassionally driving him to work a couple of times.

Then a couple years later, after you've driven the heck out of the car, scratched up the paint, tore the seats, etc. you decide to put a brick on the gas pedal and run it off a cliff; WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE that your buddy (from whom you originally took the money to buy it) not only wanted the car BUT was WILLING to BUY it from you AND give you EVEN MORE money so you can buy BRAND NEW one for yourself.

Don't you think that is a pretty lousy way to treat a friend?
(Me too.)

Well, that is essentially what happens with our current military weapons.
Re-opening the registry could change that scenario. Just my two cents.

BTW: I forgot to mention your buddy (from whom you got the sports car money) paid for all your gas, oil changes and tires too. Plus, he let you sleep on his couch, eat his food, drink his beer, and watch his TV for free too. (In return you mowed the lawn in the summer.)

Sound like any of your friends? No.
How about brothers or roommates? No.
What about family members? Yes. An uncle.
Which one is it? Uncle Sam.
Figures. Yep.



Members of our military deserve the absolute best equipment and better money for the services they provide us. (In fact, we should see about getting you some better tasting MREs too.) The comments in the aforementioned post were referring to politicians that collect a paycheck, waste money, raise taxes, laugh at the Constitution and ignore the pleas of the very people who elected them. It extends to (lousy) members of all political parties and to all levels of government.

Furthermore, it doesn't mean any disrespect to those lawmakers and people in government that do their jobs properly and efficiently.

Lastly, it doesn't mean that I don't absolutely love this country and all the things associated with it. IMHO the United States of America is handsdown the best country in the world and I am proud to be one of it's citizen.

I just wanted to make that absolutely clear to everyone. Thank you.

July 10, 2011, 04:42 PM
Sadly, there are many bigtime NFA dealers and collectors that don't want
The registry reopened... It would hurt thier investments. Zero regard for other gun owners... Its all about the money.

July 20, 2011, 04:58 PM
Furthermore, it doesn't mean any disrespect to those lawmakers and people in government that do their jobs properly and efficiently.

We have those?

July 31, 2011, 04:22 PM
nice rant.

the only reason (most people) dont want machineguns to be allowed is because they think it would allow criminals to get them. they need to understand the NFA and all the background checks/fingerprinting/hours of paperwork/months of waiting time that no criminal would be willing to put up with, especially when they can get them on the black market immediately just like they do now. they also need to understand that the 2nd amendment exists so that citizens can protect themselves from a tyranical government. does it not click with them that the government banning certain types of guns is just weakening the citizens so that the government can become however corrupt it wants when the politicians know the citizenry is outgunned and incapable of opposition or revolution?