Questions and Answers About Machine Gun Ownership

Q - Aren’t machine guns illegal?

A- Machine gun ownership is legal in many parts of the U.S. There are Federal laws which strictly regulate machine gun ownership. In some states, there are state and local laws which either regulate or prohibit machine gun ownership.

Q – What laws regulate and control Machine Gun ownership in Idaho?

A- The three principal Federal laws governing machine gun ownership are:

The National Firearms Act of 1934. This law provides for taxation of the transfer from one person to another of machine guns and certain other firearms (referred to as “N.F.A. firearms”), registration of those firearms, and the Federal licensing and taxation of machine gun dealers and manufacturers. It also calls for severe penalties for violators. The law established the $200 tax on the transfer of machine guns. This tax has not increased since the enactment of the law in 1934.

The Gun Control Act of 1968. This law prohibits the importation of machine guns for civilian ownership. It did not make properly registered foreign-made guns in the country at the time of its passage illegal.

The Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. This law prohibits the domestic manufacture of machine guns for civilian ownership. It did not make properly registered foreign- or U.S.-made guns illegal.

Idaho and 39 other states permit ownership of machine guns by non-dealer civilians. While some states have various prohibitions or restrictions, Idaho does not.

Within the 40 states permitting machine gun ownership, there are cities and towns which have various local prohibitions or restrictions. As of 1998, Idaho has no such local restrictions or prohibitions.

Q – What is the procedure for buying a machine gun legally?

A- In general, the buyer must have a clean record with no felony arrests or convictions and no record of violent crime, and in particular no record of firearms law violation. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (the “B.A.T.F.”) requires background checks on persons with drunk driving arrests on their records, as many arrested for D.U.I. are also charged with firearms violations due to an illegal firearm in the vehicle at the time of arrest. Specifically, Public Law 90-351 (18 U.S.C., Appendix), Chapter 44 and Title VII prohibit the following persons from possessing a firearm as defined in the National Firearms Act:

(1) fugitives from justice (any crime);

(2) persons under indictment for or convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;

(3) narcotic addicts or unlawful drug users;

(4) mental defectives, mental incompetents, or those who have been committed to a mental institution;

(5) veterans discharged under dishonorable conditions;

(6) persons who have renounced their U. S. citizenship;

(7) aliens illegally or unlawfully in the U. S.; and

(8) persons under 21 years of age.

First, discuss with the dealer what types of firearms are available and select the particular one which is right for you and which you want to add to your collection. Idaho Automatic Weapons Collectors’ Association dealer-members are knowledgeable and experienced with the many types and variations of machine guns and other N. F. A. firearms which are available to buyers. When you have made your selection and negotiated the purchase price, expect to pay at least a 50% deposit, and possibly a larger deposit if the dealer will be special-ordering the gun for you. Expect to forfeit a part of your deposit if you get “buyer’s remorse” and decide to cancel your order. If for any reason the B.A.T.F. does not approve the transfer of the gun to you, most dealers will refund the major portion of your deposit and retain a handling charge to compensate them for the paperwork involved and for holding the gun off the market.

Second, your I.A.W.C.A. dealer will ask you for 2, passport-style photos and information about yourself necessary for the transfer of the gun. He will assist you in preparing the B.A.T.F. Form 4, Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm, and the F.B.I. fingerprint cards. You will state that you have a reason to own the firearm, such as for sport or competitive shooting, investment or collecting. He will also put you in contact with the chief law enforcement official in the jurisdiction where you live, whom you will ask to sign the Form 4. After the paperwork has been completed, you will pay the dealer the $200 Federal Tax. He will then send the completed forms and the tax to the B.A.T.F. in Washington, D.C. You will be notified when the Application for Transfer arrives at the B.A.T.F. Approval typically takes 12 to 16 weeks, although it can take up to 6 months in some cases, and the B.A.T.F. will notify you and your dealer of the approval.

Third, when the approved Form 4 is returned to the dealer, you can pick up your gun. Make an appointment with your dealer, and plan to spend an hour or so. You will need to complete the Form 4473 required for all firearms transactions, and you should spend some time going over the features, operation, maintenance, and safe handling of your gun.

Q – Once I own my machine gun, can I ever sell it?

A- Yes, however the prospective buyer must undergo the same B.A.T.F. application process and scrutiny. (However it’s nice to know that when you die the registered firearm may pass tax free from your estate to a lawful heir.)

Q – Can a private citizen who owns an N.F.A. firearm which is not now registered have that firearm registered?

A- NO. That firearm is now a contraband firearm and it is unlawful to possess such a firearm.

Q – What are the penalties for possession of an N.F.A. firearm which is not properly registered?

A- Violators can be fined as much as $10,000, imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both. There are also civil penalties and property forfeitures that can be incurred. Unregistered firearms are contraband and are subject to seizure, AS ARE VEHICLES IN WHICH SUCH FIREARMS ARE TRANSPORTED OR CONCEALED!

Q – Does the new owner of a properly transferred firearm have any evidence to show that it is lawfully registered to him?

A- Yes. The new owner receives the approved transfer application at the time he receives the firearm from the transferor. This document will serve as evidence of registration of the firearm in the new owner’s name. This document must be kept available for inspection by B.A.T.F. officers.

Q – Does the registered owner of an N.F.A. firearm need authorization to transport the firearm?

A- The approval of the director of the B.A.T.F. is required for the interstate transportation of N.F.A. firearms. This includes both short trips (such as a vacation or attending a machine gun competition in another state) as well as permanent changes of residence. Your I.A.W.C.A. dealer will provide the necessary B.A.T.F. forms and help you with them. In cases where the registered owner moves but remains within the state of residence shown on his approved Form 4, he is asked to notify the B.A.T.F. of his new address.