Who can own a full-auto machine gun? Well, the simple answer is: you! You can own a machine gun. Yes, that’s right. It’s perfectly legal for you to own a machine gun! They are not some mythical object made up of Unobtainium.
Now to answer everyone’s second question – “don’t I need a special permit?” – and the answer is no. No, you do not need a special permit (or a secret handshake) to buy a full-auto machine gun, but you do have to follow the law. Essentially, if you’re legally able to buy any other kind of gun or NFA item, then you’re legally able to buy a machine gun. Of course, it’s a bit more nuanced than that, and we’ll get into all of those details.
As long as you abide by, and are in compliance with, all applicable federal, state, and local laws, then you can absolutely purchase and possess a full-auto machine gun.
Here are the requirements for owning a machine gun in the United States:
- Must not be classified as a “prohibited person.”
- Be at least 21 years of age to purchase a machine gun from the current owner.
- Be a legal resident of the United States.
- Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
- Pass a BATFE background check with a typical process time of 8 to 10 months.
- Pay a one time $200 transfer tax. (You’ll need a stamp for each machine gun.)
The first requirement we mentioned about machine gun ownership above was that you must not be a “prohibited person.”
A “prohibited person” includes anyone who:
- is a felon.
- has been convicted of any crime punishable by more than a year in prison (whether or not they were ever sentenced to or served a day in prison).
- is under indictment for any crime punishable by more than a year in prison.
- is a fugitive.
- is an unlawful user of any controlled substance.
- has been adjudicated as a mental defective.
- has been committed to a mental institution.
- is an illegal alien.
- has a dishonorable discharge from the military.
- has renounced their U.S. citizenship.
- is the subject of a restraining order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or the child of an intimate partner, or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
The Magical Machine Gun Date
The other big requirement for owning a machine gun is that it must have been made before May 19, 1986. It was the 1986 Hughes Amendment to the Firearms Owners Protection Act which closed the NFA registry to new machine guns. After May 19, 1986, private citizens would no longer be allowed to register new machine guns, but transfers of existing registered guns are still allowed. Because of this, machine guns are becoming more and more increasingly expensive, and you should expect to spend a minimum of $6,000-$10,000 to buy one. Popular models, like M16s and Tommy Guns, are closer to $30,000 or more. Essentially, machine guns are quickly becoming investments rather than practical firearms for use.
However, there is still a way to get a brand new machine gun. Interested? Well then, keep reading.
Gun Manufacturing with an SOT
Under current law, only government agencies can acquire newly-made machine guns – but they still need dealers to buy them from and manufacturers to make them.
Sales of such guns go through FFL gun dealers with either an 03 SOT (retail sales of NFA items with an 01 or 02 FFL) or an 02 SOT (manufacturing of NFA items with an 07 or 10 FFL).
Here’s where it gets interesting…
An 03 SOT needs a letter from a law enforcement agency asking to see a particular machine gun demonstrated. This is called a demo letter, and the gun is called a dealer sample. Only 02 and 03 SOTs can acquire dealer samples, and only with a demo letter. Once you allow the agency to examine the gun, it is yours to keep as long as you maintain your SOT. Many SOT holders acquire demo guns from friendly local law enforcement requests.
However, if you cannot get a demo letter, an 03 SOT gun dealer has no other way of acquiring a machine gun. If you are an 02 SOT, though, you are legally allowed to build as many machine guns or other NFA devices as you wish (following a certain procedure, of course) and may retain them for as long as you maintain your SOT.
That’s right: you can build a machine gun (full-auto machine gun) legally and keep it for as long as you wish and are in business!
Too Good to Be True?
You might think that this sounds shady, but it’s not. As long as you are conducting legal business, there are all sorts of reasons to build legal machine guns, including proof of concept, experimentation, range rentals, demo guns, movie prop rentals, and more. Along the way, as an incidental to doing business, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the machine guns you have built or acquired. In fact, it would be stupid not to do so!
Ready to Get Your SOT?
No matter if you want an 02 or 03 SOT gun license, there are a number of different hurdles to overcome. You first have to get a regular FFL, and then have to successfully apply for your SOT. That means knowing a lot of different regulations, laws, and procedures. After all, even an 02 SOT can’t just start cranking out machine guns in their garage because the ATF likes to know what you are doing.
You can work all this out on your own after extensive study of appropriate laws and rules. Or, you can take the fast, easy, and simple way out.
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