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What’s a “Transferable Gun”?

The National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) established a $200 tax on the transfer of Machine Guns, sawed-off shotguns, short barreled rifles and innocuous silencers. These things are now referred to as NFA items. This amounted to at least a 100% tax on NFA items and, more importantly, it established the first control over Machine Guns and their transfer by the Federal Government. Over 30 years later, the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68) restricted the importation of surplus military weapons into the US. Ironically, gun manufacturers lobbied hard for GCA68 because they concluded that cheap military surplus was killing the market for their products. Little did they anticipate the full draconian measure of GCA68, but it effectively stopped all military surplus, including US models, from being (re)imported into the US. Obviously that included Machine Guns and all manner of automatic weapons. Machine Guns imported into the US after 1968 could only be owned by a Special Occupation Taxpayer (SOT) that we know as a Machine Gun Dealer and these Machine Guns became known as pre-86 or pre-May dealer samples for reasons that will soon be apparent. It took almost 20 years to correct many of the injustices of GCA68 through legislation known as The Firearms Owner’s Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA). But FOPA and its infamous late-night Hughes Amendment made all Machine Guns unlawful to be owned by individuals except those that were registered in the ATF’s  National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record (NFRTR) before May 19, 1986. Those Machine Guns registered after that date are known as post-86 dealer samples and can also only be owned by a SOT but only for law enforcement or military demonstrations.

So, what’s a transferable gun??

The simple answer is, "It’s a NFA Machine Gun that an individual can own that is registered in the NFRTR as a transferable." Obviously it's more complex than that and the real question is, "How did a Machine Gun become registered in the NFRTR as transferable?"

Essentially there are 2 ways that a Machine Gun became transferable.

1. It was registered (often very reluctantly) by an individual between 1934 and the end of 1968 either by admitting to possessing an unregistered Machine Gun or the November 2, 1968 to December 1, 1968 registration amnesty permitted by GCA68. (The actuality is that voluntary registrations continued trickling into 1971. In the 1971 decision in US v. Freed, The Supremes interpreted the amended NFA of GCA68 and "compelling self-incrimination" implications and prohibited further voluntary registrations except by additional amnesty periods. ATF has not allowed any additional amnesty periods.)

2. It was made by a foreign manufacturer and registered prior to the end of 1968 or made and registered by a domestic manufacturer before May 19, 1986. Further the domestic manufacturer could have been anyone filing a Form 1 (Application to Make and Register a Firearm) and producing a complete automatic weapon or the conversion parts such as auto sears or bolts required to make one.

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