Before 1968, it was legal for vets to bring back guns that they'd captured in battle or otherwise acquired, and while many of them registered their war-trophy machine guns during the one brief 30-day amnesty period offered in the early 1970's, many others did not, either because they didn't trust the government to let them keep said trophies, or else because they didn't even know about the amnesty. (It was only a month long, and there was no internet back then.) Consequently, many of those historic firearms which would now be quite valuable if they were legal became contraband and the mere possession of them a federal crime. But now, thanks to this bill, the vets who missed the first amnesty period have a second chance to register them and make them legal again, allowing them to be brought out of the shadows and shot, displayed, or sold.
This bill won't lead to "blood in the streets", as any weapon covered under it will be registered with the federal government just like many thousands of other lawfully-possessed machine guns are, and the FBI's own records show that crimes committed with lawful, legally-registered machine guns are virtually nil. (I'm aware of only two such crimes documented since 1968 that involved lawfully-owned machine guns.) What it will do is allow any number of veterans who served honorably to once again use and enjoy the firearms that they lawfully (at that time) brought back from their time overseas.
Press release from Congressman Rehberg here.
“Arbitrarily treating law abiding citizens like criminals is one of the biggest problems with federal gun registration requirements,” said Rehberg, a member of the Second Amendment Task Force. “In this case, we’re literally talking about punishing men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom. It’s unacceptable and I’m going try and do something about it.”
During WWII and the Korean War, many veterans acquired war relic firearms, which was a lawful practice at the time. Under current law, if the firearms were not registered with the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record during a single 30-day registration period in the 1970s, the veteran or their heir may be convicted of illegally possessing the firearm.
The Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act will provide a limited amnesty for veterans who served overseas between 1934 and 1968. During the amnesty period, veterans will be able to register war relic firearms without fear of prosecution. This amnesty also extends to the veteran’s lawful heirs who inherited these weapons. If the veteran or heir chooses not to keep the weapon, the law would allow them to transfer the relic to a museum or collection without penalty in an effort to preserve these valuable pieces of America’s military history.
“Having served more than twenty years in the U.S. Army, I know that many service members, myself included, bring home relics and souvenirs from their tours of duty,” Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA), who introduced the legislation with Rehberg. “Often times, a firearm from a tour becomes a family heirloom to a relative who doesn’t realize it should be registered with the National Firearms Act. We should give these veterans, service members and their families an opportunity to openly register these firearms without penalty.”
It might also add a few more Thompson SMGs, BARs, MP-39 and -40s, PPShs, or German MG's to the registry as these vets or their heirs decide to sell them to other gun enthusiasts or history buffs. We all know that those things are out there, hidden away in attics and basements; let's make them all legal again and get them back into circulation!