Filed yesterday in Dallas, the lawsuit of Hollis v. Holder is suing the U.S. Department of Justice to allow legal entities such as trusts and corporations to legally register new machine guns. As you probably know, machine guns are regulated under the National Firearms Act, and in most states (as well as on the federal level) possession of an item regulated under that act is a felony unless it is properly registered. However, starting in 1986 the U.S. Government declared that they would no longer approve new registration applications for machine guns — they “closed” the registry. The newly filed lawsuit is seeking to change that.
It all started with a ruling by the ATF that declared trusts and legal corporations were not people. Previously it was possible for someone to use a trust or other legal entity to purchase firearms, and because there was no one to perform a background check on there was no need to perform a NICS check or do most of the paperwork for the ATF form 4473. The ATF wanted to force people to go through the NICS check, but they made a mistake.
When the feds “closed” the registry, they didn’t do a very good job. The specific regulation stated that no person could register a new machine gun. But trusts, as the ATF just declared, are not people.
Following the discovery of that possible wrinkle in the bureaucratic fabric of the NFA, there were a flood of people sending in applications to make and register new machine guns. One person momentarily succeeded — they were issued a proper and valid registration for a brand new machine gun — but the ATF quickly reversed itself and issued a revocation of the registration.
This latest legal action stems from that incident. The person involved is suing the ATF to issue the registration for their machine gun, and in the complaint filed yesterday they threw the book at the ATF. Starting with an attack on the NFA process in general and ending with using the Heller decision to point out that “commonly used” firearms cannot be banned (like the select fire M4 that the Army uses), they’re pulling out all the stops to make sure that the judge sees the ridiculousness of the ATF’s position in this matter.
As the eternal pessimist, I doubt that we will see much (if any) movement on this issue. But the arguments are solid, and hope springs eternal that things will turn out better than they did in the 1930’s.