Anyone keeping a personal or relative’s war relic tucked away in secret because it’s illegal to own may find some legal relief. A new piece of legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress on Monday would open a 180-day amnesty period for veterans or their family members to register guns that were captured overseas and brought or sent home before a certain date.
This story from guns.com says the bipartisan Veterans Heritage Firearms Act will allow any guns brought to the states before October 31, 1968 to be declared with no fear of prosecution—kind of like a gun buyback program, but you still get to keep the gun.
“Our World War II and Korean War Veterans risked their lives in foreign lands in defense of our freedoms,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark in the story, co-sponsor with Maine Independent Angus King of the Senate version of the bill “These firearms represent the sacrifices they made in the name of duty and are often treasured keepsakes.”
The legislation would work by briefly opening the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record to veterans and family members to register certain firearms. The database is the federal government’s record of machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and destructive devices owned by U.S. citizens.
From the guns.com story: “Many veterans legally brought back captured enemy weapons from overseas in the wake of America’s wars. Provided they had the right paperwork, some could properly register NFA defined items as Title II firearms before 1968. Others, who either didn’t have the paperwork or chose not to register, illegally owned their trophies after that date and often these guns are still in circulation — putting the possessor at risk of up to 10 years in federal prison.”
The story then gives the example of Marine John Sullivan, who recovered a Japanese Type 99 light machine gun from a pillbox on Iwo Jima during WWII. He had the unregistered firearm on display for over three decades above his bar, the story says. The law came looking for it in 1981 and it was only saved from destruction by “extraordinary efforts from local and federal law enforcement.’ It was eventually put on display at a local museum in Illinois, according to this earlier guns.com story.
Sometimes, when veterans pass away, their relatives are left with these unregistered, illegal weapons and don’t know what to do with them. Some elect to anonymously ditched them somewhere rather than deal with legal problems. The proposed amnesty period would give those individuals a better option.
The bills must first be assigned to committee for a hearing before they will move on to respective Senate and House meetings and votes.
The story does not say if the amnesty would also apply to wartime American-made firearms brought to the U.S. under similar circumstances.