When the Hughes Amendment to the National Firearms Act came out, all hell broke loose. May 19th 1986 would be the very last day that anyone could legally register a machine gun, and after that date no individual would be allowed to manufacture a new one.In response the manufacturers put the coals to their production lines, cranking out every last serialized part they could muster and trying to get them registered before the arbitrary cut-off date. According to sources within the ATF it looks like some of those legally registered machine guns may soon be re-classified from their current perfectly legal and transferable status to a “post sample” status where individuals may no longer posses or transfer them. Here’s the crux of the issue . . .
Normally a manufacturer has 48 hours to notify the ATF that they made a machine gun. Making something one day and sending the paperwork the next is A-OK for manufacturers and pretty common practice. The issue at hand is that there were a number of manufacturers — specifically Flemming, S&H, and Vollmer, who were cranking out H&K sears like there was no tomorrow (which there wasn’t) — who manufactured registered machine gun sears prior to the deadline on the 19th but failed to file the paperwork until the 20th.
Our sources are telling us that people in possession of such a sear will be getting a nasty letter and possibly a knock on the door to inform them that they are now illegally in possession of a “post sample” machine gun.
This change is going to piss off a ton of people. Not only will this wipe out the value of their property (pre-ban machine guns and sears typically sell for upwards of $20,000 each) but it will instantly turn law abiding people into criminals for no reason. The manufacturers were well within the law to manufacture them on the 19th and submit the paperwork on the 20th, but the ATF has decided to reclassify these otherwise legal objects after they have already been around for 29 years.
Now that they will be considered “post ban” samples it is unclear how this would be handled, if the owners would be allowed to try and obtain a federal firearms license and a “demo letter” from the local police to keep their property or if it would simply be confiscated.
The precedent for this was set last year when the ATF approved a new production machine gun for a trust and then immediately revoked their approval. That situation is now making its way through the legal system, but in the meantime it looks like the ATF sees this as their opportunity to remove as many machine guns from the United States as they possibly can without involving the legislature.
Complicating this process is the fact that the ATF has lost most of their records. The machine gun registry is incomplete — they lost a ton of records when they digitized the registry and destroyed the paper copies of the firearms registrations. This most likely includes a good portion of these transferable sears that they are planning on reclassifying as post samples.
Finding the current owners who are actually in the system should be easy, but older records for sears that haven’t been transferred in decades may be more difficult. So fair warning: if you are buying a transferable H&K sear, when you submit the Form 4 instead of approving the paperwork the ATF may come along and declare that it is now a post-sample and confiscate it.