The greatest generation refers to those alive during the World War II era and those who served in the armed forces. While it is a sad realization, every passing year, the country loses more and more of that brave population.
Every time a war hero passes, they might leave behind a treasure trove of military artifacts and war trophies. While the discovery of such historical pieces is often exhilarating for the family, it also can result in legal problems. Beyond the safety of old military pieces, an owner must also contend with any possible legal ramifications of possession of certain antique or vintage weapons.
Prohibited Firearms and Amnesty
Some antique weapons, while they may maintain historical value, are prohibited under federal law. Prohibited or NFA armaments indicate a class of weapons the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives considers illegal.
The National Firearms Act specifies destructive devices or automatic firearms as illegal. Gun alterations also constitute illegal manipulation of a legal instrument, which means some firearms in granddads collection may be unlawful.
Despite the laws, if your grandparent or father disclosed a firearm or other device before May 19, 1986, the item may fall under government-approved amnesty. To find out the legal status of an antique, contact ATF.
Legal Troubles of Ownership
If the inherited item does not fall under the amnesty agreement, it is technically contraband, and you can face legal repercussions for ownership. However, there are ways to retain ownership of such contraband legally, but it is an expensive process.
If you are purchasing or inheriting a firearm or other device, you will need to receive appropriate government agencies’ approval. You will also need to obtain a license. In some instances, the governing body may require the piece’s demilitarization, making it incapable of use. Failure to obtain a permit or permission can result in a fine or prison sentence.
Safety and Risks
Antique weapons, while intriguing and beautiful, are not always safe. Keep in mind that today’s safety protocols and regulations are not the same as they were several decades ago. Also, if a firearm is not adequately maintained, it can lead to injury of the operator.
Some people may find antique explosive devices. Do not assume that the item is inert. If you come across grenades or landmines through inheritance, then contact the ATF department or local law enforcement. Do not take risks with your life. Keep in mind that nearly any weapon you come across will require disclosure to the government. Some devices are always considered contraband because of the inherent risks of ownership.
Antique or vintage weapons provide a unique perspective into history, both familial and national, but you must keep your wits about you. Sometimes intrigue and fascination can lead to lopsided and irrational choices. If you inherit or come across an antique weapon, do not give in to that base instinct to play; instead, contact local authorities and figure out your legal responsibilities to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Do you have any stories of antique firearms or mishaps? Leave a comment below.