Tester moves to protect combat veterans’ trophy firearms
Senator presses officials to open a registration period based on bipartisan legislation
(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, is urging federal officials to allow American combat veterans to legally register firearms they acquired on the field of battle.
American veterans who acquired certain types of weapons during combat under rules of military conflict—guns known as “trophy” firearms—are often unable to legally register the weapons, which means those veterans could be charged with illegal possession of firearms.
Tester introduced bipartisan legislation earlier this year to open a 90-day period for veterans and their families to register firearms for legal ownership—guns acquired during World War II and the Korean War, when servicemembers were allowed to legally acquire relic firearms. The bill would apply specifically to machineguns and other automatic firearms, and would not impact more common trophy weapons like bolt-action rifles or semi-automatic pistols, which do not need to be registered.
Tester’s legislation is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and backed by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).
"It is important to protect veterans and members of our armed forces from unnecessary prosecution and give them a viable path to comply with federal law," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "Those who fought to preserve our freedom should not be penalized for their desire to lawfully own firearms from the battlefield."
In a letter with McCain, Tester today pushed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Director Kenneth Melson of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to use their authority to implement a registration period like the one called for by the legislation.
“It is critical that we give our veterans another 90-day amnesty period to comply with the law without fear of penalty,” Tester and McCain wrote. “If an amnesty is not provided, we will be further convinced that legislation is necessary in order for our veterans to register their lawfully obtained firearms.”
A copy of Tester’s bipartisan Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act is available on his website, HERE.
Tester’s letter to Holder and Melson, available online HERE, appears below.
The Hon. Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Mr. Kenneth E. Melson
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Office of Public and Governmental Affairs
99 New York Avenue, NE, Room 5S 144
Washington, DC 20226 USA
Dear Attorney General Holder and Acting Director Melson:
We write to urge you to use your authority to provide an amnesty period during which veterans and their family members can register certain firearms in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
Congress granted a 30-day amnesty in 1968 and provided for the establishment of additional amnesty periods not exceeding 90 days per period. However, no amnesty periods have been provided since then. As a result, there are a number of firearms in gun safes, attics and collections that are still unregistered. It is critical that we give our veterans another 90-day amnesty period to comply with the law without fear of penalty. Our legislation is drafted with this goal in mind.
Out of concern for this issue, on April 12, 2011, we introduced S. 798, the Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act, to enable a veteran who acquired an eligible firearm during military service, to register that gun in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Our legislation applies to war trophy firearms acquired outside the continental United States lawfully according to military regulations.
We urge you to use your authority to implement a 90-day amnesty for veterans and their family members to register these firearms. If an amnesty is not provided, we will be further convinced that legislation is necessary in order for our veterans to register their lawfully obtained firearms.
Senator Jon Tester
Senator John McCain