Bill Would Allow Vets to Keep Their Battlefield Guns

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - Current federal law threatens veterans with possible prison terms and hefty fines if they keep the machine guns they used during their war service prior to 1968. But two congressmen are trying to change the law and a leading veterans' group says it's about time.

U.S. Reps. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) have introduced legislation that would allow veterans to keep the machine guns they brought home as souvenirs following their service in America's military.

Cannon said the legislation would give veterans 90 days in which to register their firearms with the Treasury Department.

But there is a stipulation. In order to qualify, a member of the Armed Forces while stationed outside the continental United States must have acquired the firearms before October 31, 1968. The legislation would also allow family members to register firearms inherited from veterans.

"When they (America's veterans) returned home they focused on reuniting with their family, securing an education, and building a home-not on wading through the burdensome bureaucracy associated with registering a firearm," Gibbons said.

"Now the machine guns they brought back are illegal and cannot be registered, and veterans or their family members are required to surrender them to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for destruction," Cannon said. "In many cases these war relic firearms are worth thousands of dollars. But in all cases they are meaningful souvenirs for our nation's veterans."

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had no comment on the legislation, according to a spokesman.

But AMVETS, one of the nation's leading veterans' organizations, applauded the legislation, calling it an effort to clarify the present federal law, according to spokesman Rick Jones.

"Veterans should not be considered criminals for having and holding these souvenirs," said Jones. "These type of firearms represent a moment in their lives where there was extreme danger. The bill deals appropriately with how veterans should be treated should they possess these firearms.

"We know that veterans sometimes decorate their halls with a firearm captured from World War Two. The machine gun should be declared inoperable to conform with the laws of the United States. But to declare these veterans as criminals for having these firearms, we think is wrong," Jones added.

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