New Law Allows Veterans to Register Most Firearms Taken as War Trophies

Many Vets return home from wars with trophies, many of those trophies were never registered, but a recent legislation was introduced to Congress that would allow 180-day amnesty for veterans or their family to register guns captured overseas. During WWII many men returned home with various enemy weapons that were kept under the radar in fear of those weapons being confiscated, but this recent legislation could change everything.

According to Guns:

The bipartisan Veterans Heritage Firearms Act aims to allow former service members or their family to declare guns brought back to the states before Oct. 31, 1968, without fear of prosecution. Sponsors argue the bill will save historical artifacts that have become treasured, but legally risky, family heirlooms.

“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, co-sponsor with Maine Independent Angus King, of S.1435. “These firearms represent the sacrifices they made in the name of duty and are often treasured keepsakes.”

The bill would briefly open the National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record to veterans and their family to register certain firearms. The NFRTR is the federal government’s database of National Firearms Act items including machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and destructive devices.

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.

Marine John Sullivan, during the Pacific island-hopping campaign of World War II, recovered a Japanese Type 99 light machine gun from a pillbox on Iwo Jima. Although unregistered in the NFRTR, Sullivan placed the weapon on display for over three decades over his bar until one day in 1981 when the law came looking for it. The gun was only saved from the scrap heap by extraordinary efforts from local and federal law enforcement that eventually saw it put on display at a local museum.

These weapons, often hot potatoes for descendants on a veteran’s passing, are sometimes destroyed. In 2009, police outside of Birmingham, Alabama were called when a county road crew found five Japanese and Italian machine guns, an anti-tank rifle and a Japanese 50mm mortar thrown into a shallow creek. Still in working condition, the WWII-era guns were neither reported stolen nor listed on the NFTFR, prompting officials to ask the public for any information on the mystery weapons.

This legislation will ensure families can proudly display these antique weapons without fear of confiscation from the government. These particular weapons from a bygone era hold a lot of sentimental value to families and it is only right that we are able to preserve these historical treasures for years to come.

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Staff Writer

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