Class III ATF question


January 1, 2010, 06:51 PM
After you legally buy and register a class III firearm (say a transferrable submachine gun), what can the ATF do as far as inspection? Can they come to your house and look at the gun and the registration papers?

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January 1, 2010, 06:54 PM
Nope. If you register an NFA firearm they can't do anything more than normal.

Boba Fett
January 1, 2010, 06:56 PM
My understanding is that they cannot.

No, you don’t give up all your rights at this point. It is the question that I get asked the most at this point. Search warrants are still required by law, these days, even for an individual that owns a class 3 weapon.

I had read that there were some circumstances where they can "search your home" / perform inspection, but IIRC it had to do with being a Class III dealer that stores the weapons at his home. Something like that anyway.

Someone who knows for sure want to confirm or correct that for me?

*EDIT* may have answered it myself. Found the link in my bookmarks:
As to surrendering your 4th amendment (search and seizure)
rights, this is definitely true when one gets a Federal Firearms
License. The law allows the ATF to inspect your records and
inventory once every 12 months without any cause, and at any
point during the course of a bona fide criminal investigation (18
USC sec. 923(g)). They may inspect without warning during
business hours. The only modification of the above pertains to
the C&R FFL (type 03) where ATF must schedule the inspection,
(C&R FFL holders do not have business hours) and they must have
the inspection at their office nearest the C&R FFL holders
premises, if the holder so requests. ATF may look around the
licensed premises for other weapons not on your records. This
means they take the position that if your licensed premises are
your home they may search it, as part of the annual compliance
inspection. The constitutionality of the warrantless
"administrative search" of licensees provided for in the Gun
Control Act has been upheld by the US Supreme Court, see U.S. v.
Biswell, 406 U.S. 311 (1972). Biswell was partially overturned
by Congress by 1986 changes to the requirements for a warrant
under the GCA, but the administrative search provisions remain.


As to one who is neither a FFL nor SOT, but only owns
weapons regulated under the National Firearms Act, the law seems
clear, but practice is a little murky. ATF may only compel you
to show an agent upon request the registration paperwork, that
is the Form 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or whatever else might have been used
to register the weapon. See 26 USC sec. 5841(e). They do not
have any right to compel you to show them the weapon. However
they apparently (I have no first hand knowledge) take the
position that they can compel one to show ATF the weapon upon
request, even if the owner has no FFL. As always the Fourth
amendment applies, and ATF may not enter your home or other place
of storage of the NFA weapon, nor seize the weapon, without a
warrant, or without falling under an exception the Supreme Court
has created to the operation of the Fourth amendment. They
should also need a warrant to compel a non-FFL holder to show
them the weapon, and I would insist upon that, myself.

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