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In 1968, Lyndon Baines Johnson forced the gun control act of 1968 through a reluctant Congress. The act was not popular, but Johnson’s ability to twist arms and bribe Congressmen was legendary. As part of the deal making to get GCA 1968 through Congress, a provision for amnesty of arms controlled by the National Firearms Act (NFA) was included.

From smallarmsreview.com:

The Congress resolved this conflict by (1) prohibiting any information required to comply with the NFA to be used against a registrant or applicant “in a criminal proceeding with respect to a violation of law occurring prior to or concurrently with the filing of the application or registration, or the compiling of the records containing the information or evidence”; (2) establishing an amnesty period from November 2, 1968, to December 1, 1968, when persons could register unregistered NFA firearms with immunity from prosecution; and (3) prohibiting ATF from releasing any information about the registration status or ownership of any NFA firearm. During the 1968 amnesty, firearms were registered on Form 4467.

The 1968 amnesty is the first and only one the federal government has held so far. As was the case under the original NFA, fingerprints or photographs were not required to voluntarily register an NFA firearm during the 1968 amnesty period.

The original authorization for an amnesty was for 30 days. However, the statute that provided for the amnesty also provided that the Secretary of the Treasury could authorize as many future amnesties as they decided would “contribute to the purposes of this title.”

From PUBLIC LAW 90-619-OCT. 22, 1968, found on page 1236 of United States Statutes at Large Volume 82.djvu/1278:

(d) The Secretary of the Treasury, after publication in the Federal Register of his intention to do so, is authorized to establish such periods of amnesty, not to exceed ninety days in the case of any single period, and immunity from liability during any such period, as the Secretary determines will contribute to the purposes of this title. TITLE III — AMENDMENTS TO TITLE VII O F THE OMNIB U S C R I M E CONTROL A N D S A F E S T R E E T S ACT O F 1968

I do not believe this statute has ever been repealed or superseded. It appears to still be effective law. No Congressional approval, then, is required for an amnesty. Any Secretary of the Treasury may declare one at any time they wish, as long as they give notice in the Federal Register and the amnesty is for a period of 90 days or less. As a practical matter, no Secretary of the Treasury would be able to declare such an amnesty without at least the tacit approval of the President.

At the time of the bills passage, I recall it was understood that there would be regular amnesties. That would have made sense for several reasons.

First, it would continue to bring otherwise illegally owned arms into the registration system. As people who feared firearms confiscation saw that it didn’t happen, they could decide to register their arms.

Second, it would allow a mechanism for people who inherited unregistered firearms, or who obtained them in some other, unintentional way such as finding an old Thompson or M2 carbine in a barn or attic, to bring these firearms into the registration system. Current law doesn’t allow these firearms to be registered, unless it is through an amnesty.

Third, it would allow for the transfer of arms owned by police departments to individuals. Numerous NFA arms are owned by police departments without being registered under the NFA. Police departments are exempt from the requirement to register. Technologies and departmental needs change. Amnesties would allow police departments and other government entities to register these firearms so that they could be sold to individuals, benefiting both the departments and the individuals. Hundreds of vintage Thompsons, for example, were destroyed by the FBI, when they could have been sold to collectors for millions of dollars.

Fourth, new amnesties would allow discrepancies in the NFA lists to be corrected. During an amnesty period, owners of registered arms could check to see if their registration is correctly recorded by the ATF. If not, it could be corrected without legal liability or cost. From previous cases, it’s been shown that the NFA registry is incomplete and inaccurate.

I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on the Internets, but the authority for more amnesties appears to be there. A President, if he chose to do so, could direct the Secretary of the Treasury declare one or more amnesties for the purpose of NFA registration. Precedent has already been set.

A president might use the executive action of an amnesty as a lever to extract concessions from Congress, such as national reciprocity for carry permits, removal of suppressors, short barreled rifles or shotguns from the NFA, or other obvious, commonsense, reasonable reforms. Such reforms are long overdue.

It’s possible that previous presidents weren’t aware of this authority, or didn’t wish to exercise it for fear of criticism in the media. A President who’s elected in spite of all-out media opposition would already have shown that he need not fear them.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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31 Responses to An Amnesty Any Administration Can Implement

    • President Trump-“Take Suppressors off of the NFA, get rid of the Hughes Amendment, or else”

      Moronic Democrats/RINOs-“Yes sir, please, anything to the American people happy”.

      Suppressors off the NFA and Hughes is gone…

      President Trump-“Amnesty NFA after all, screw them”.

      On a high note it should apply to those convicted of NFA related offensives, those out of prison get their records wiped clean.

  1. Trump. Or bust.

    Open an amnesty on nfa items and listen to the guys that expect to harvest thousands upon thousands of dollars on their limited items scream rape.

    • I don’t think that you would hear as much complaining as you believe you would.

      I know several guys who own machine guns. All of them want the NFA repealed.

      Machine gun owners wouldn’t lose any money on the items that they now own because they intend never to sell them anyway.

      Moreover, the advantage of an NFA repeal is that collectors would be able to buy more of the same, and at prices that would make sense. Which is really what they want.

      • Guys who own registered machine guns are rich. Duh. Being able to buy 20 more machine guns would far outweigh the fact they lost a few thousand bucks.

        • Most of those registered machines are so old, and are so few, they’d still have significant value even with an increased supply of transferable items.

          With an open amnesty, I’d probably buy any pre 1985 AR-15 I could find, register it, then convert it to select fire. Which is the sad thing about an open amnesty, it’d still be subject to the Hughes amendment.

      • Machine gun owners wouldn’t be upset….dealers that make big money on these overpriced items are the ones that would go ape shit.

        • If an amnesty like this happened I don’t think you could convert a pre 86 semi to full then register it. If so that would be bad a** lots of m2 carbines would start floating around. I have an old Chinese AK before they marked them Norinco or Polytech. I believe it’s pre 86. Would be very very cool.

        • I do not think the Hughes amendment need apply. It is an amnesty. And the Hughes Amendment can be interpreted to mean “what ever the government it willing to allow”.

  2. Would such an amnesty allow the aquisition of post-Hughes automatics? Much of the LEO stock is composed of post-ban select-fires, not pre-ban collector pieces. I’m guessing the Hughes amendment precludes that from happening, but it would be nice to see some old MP5s that I’m sure are out there get into circulation.

  3. A president could also have his attorney general declare all firearms (or at least those assembled for personal use) to be “experimental” (how else will you know if or how well it works?) for 922r.

  4. We the people should give notice that we will give the government a 90 day amnesty period in which to repeal this unconstitutional piece of legislation.

  5. “As people who feared firearms confiscation saw that it didn’t happen, they could decide to register their arms.”

    Firearms confiscation didn’t happen. Never say never.

  6. The honor system only works for those with (and who uphold) honor. All else is after the fact, and we’re paying with Liberty to gain reactive Security.

    It needs to be repealed, those who passed this mess need to be pestered unto the grave, and those who have been lucky to have already passed from this earth, need to be unearthed en-mass, and buried upside down in each others incongruous grave for all that it has wrought upon our Society.

    • Utimately that’s the only consession that matters. Two or three fewer laws and one fewer agency – that’s what we all really need.

  7. How about we just repeal all nfa bs and have an amnesty on potato chips or something. I’ll amnestize some beers and we can all celebrate the new found freedom. Maybe I’m not using that word right, but we should still repeal the nfa… And the beer might not be bad either.

    • Beer DID get “amnetized” in the U.S. on 5 December, 1933 with the repeal of the Volstead Act, AKA the 18th Amendment. Of course, repeal required yet ANOTHER amendment, the 21st. We have yet to recognize the “K.I.S.S. Principle”, have we?

      • In 1935 , the Federal Alcohol Administration was struck down by SCOTUS. It’s functions were to be administered by Treasury, and B.I.R . ( Bureau Internal Revenue ) > later to become I.R.S. by the ILLEGAL actions of Sec. Treasury Humphrey in 1953. IE > no authority or approval by CON-gress or POTUS …. = Fraud. If the ATF has any jurisdiction at all , it is ONLY on Federal lands and only for the purpose of collecting TAX on the First sale of an IMPORTED firearm.
        ———— Proof here : http://www.usa-the-republic.com/revenue/BATF-IRS%20Criminal%20Report.html

        Follow the white rabbit.

  8. I’m gonna file this under “Never gonna happen”, which is unfortunately different than the “Never gonna happen” that gun confiscation is filed under.

    • “Never gonna happen” is the same thing I said about the American electorate putting an unknown tyro like Barack Obama in the Oval Office in 2008. I said it again in 2012 after his first term was such a mess. Now I’m saying it about Hillary Clinton. If I’m wrong again, I most assuredly will not say “Never gonna happen” about confiscation of “assault weapons” and hi-cap magazines in a Clinton administration. How’s that meme go again? “Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.”

  9. I can see it now: Yeah, uh hey guys, I just found this MG42 in my closet! Not that’s not a 2016 date on the receiver, it’s uhh, the type of steel used! Yeah, steel!

  10. Back in 1986, I asked a relatively high-up BATF administrator why they didn’t declare another amnesty. His exact quote, “Because there’s so many unregistered machine guns out there that it would take the entire manpower of ATF until 2000 to register them all !”
    That NFA really works great, don’t it ?

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