Yet Another Machinegun Lawsuit

The author's post sample M16 lower.

The author's post sample M16 lower.

When we say no politics here on TFB we mean that we guarantee when you come here, rather than be bombarded with political opinions or propaganda you will get nothing but firearm related information and the best media coverage we can provide. However, what we will do is follow interesting developments in litigation and legal questions that are pertinent to our great pastime.

We are in a firearms renaissance right now. AR15s are everywhere and affordable, parts are cheap, new designs are rolling out all the time, people are more aware that NFA items (including machineguns) are legal, and we have an influx of new shooters and hobbyists who are becoming part of our great pastime.

This renaissance is rapidly approaching what many consider to be the apex; the opening of the machinegun registry allowing prices to fall. One lawsuit started as a result of a man being denied the production of a fully automatic firearm on an ATF form 1, and he and his legal team are accepting donations to help make them approve it. This has progressed into a lawsuit now; Jay Hollis Vs. Eric Holder. Mr. Hollis has now issued his complaint and the litigation process has begun. You may read the complaint here. A summons has also been issued to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Now we have ANOTHER machinegun lawsuit on the table:

“Plaintiff Ryan S. Watson, acting individually and as trustee of the Watson Family Gun Trust, is suing Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director B. Todd Jones in their official capacities for administering, executing and enforcing “statutory and regulatory provisions [that] generally act as an unlawful de facto ban on the transfer or possession of a machine gun manufactured after May 19, 1986.”

Watson, like Hollis also submitted a form 1 that was disapproved. The plaintiff’s argument hinges on a fer key points; that existing laws restricting ownership of machineguns exceed the authority of Congress, the 1986 ban violates the Second Amendment, and It states that statutes cannot be applied individually or against trustees due to the ATF’s determination that “unincorporated trusts are not prohibited from manufacturing or possessing machine guns.”

As a machine gun enthusiast I have been following all of this pretty closely in hopes that someday we can all compete in subgun matches and purchase/build fully automatic firearms at reasonable a cost.We will continue to provide coverage on this case as information trickles our way.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • joe schemo

    We can only hope.

  • Adam aka eddie d.

    I’ve been thinking quite hard whether I should ask this question or not,
    but where else if not here, so here it goes:
    while I absolutely understand that machinegun enthusiasts feel the need
    to fight for their rights in this field (too), I personally don’t know what to think of it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against it, hell no! 🙂 It’s not that.
    I’d love to be able to shoot an auto MP5 or a PKM etc.
    But quite frankly, I don’t see too much of a chance for turning this
    legislation around right now, when even an utter self-contradictory nonsense,
    such as the SBR law can exist. Why not turn that around first?

    Non-firearm people show a lot more resistance against machineguns
    than “normal” carbines. Sadly, that’s just the way it is now.
    While smaller, easier handling, less noisy guns could be a serious argument on our side (less noise pollution, smaller statured people can enjoy shooting too etc. ),
    which is more understandable even for non-gun people.
    I saw this on my significant other too: she always liked “dangerous things” on a layman’s level, but she always grabbed the lightest, smallest one first.

    Wouldn’t it be more effective to first focus the efforts on the SBR law and suppressors?
    These two topics (especially the first one) can spark interest in a lot wider audience (as for the shooting community), since modern individual firearms are evolving to be “SBR”-s anyway. Time has proven the point that having a small, compact firearm doesn’t mean everyone will cruise around in a detective coat laying down mayhem on the street.
    Having compact guns is just a practical need.
    A lot of people are buying pistols, braces right now, but this whole thing is so absurd.
    If it wasn’t for the SBR law, shooters wouldn’t need to put up with this whole nonsense.

    The SBR topic could move a lot more people. If that law could be turned around,
    maybe there would be more chance for the machinegun folks too.
    All in all, I just thought maybe prioritizing the goals would make these efforts more effective.

    • Chijen

      There is no artificial ban on new SBR or silencers. There is for machine guns.

      • Adam aka eddie d.

        You are right Sir, there is no ban on them.
        But there’s a hefty tax stamp and the additional paperwork,
        lengthy wait and the registration hassle with ATF.
        That’s why the pistol market exists at all.

        But my main point was that while a “simple” legislation like this can’t be turned around, there is no real chance of turning the MG ban down.
        You don’t start lifting weights with 50 lb. dumbells.
        You start small, and eventually you’ll get there too.
        That’s what I wanted to say.

        • J.T.

          “But there’s a hefty tax stamp and the additional paperwork”

          The need for a tax stamp is one of the things these lawsuits are going after as well if I remember correctly.

      • lbeacham

        We should be able to buy a suppressors like any part. Triggers, compensators, sights and optics as an example. AR “pistols” prove SBR’s are no threat.

    • sianmink

      I agree that striking SBRs, SBSs, AOWs and/or suppressors from the NFA is probably a more reachable goal right now, but this isn’t a fight that we can’t afford to fight on more than one front. I don’t see that we’re losing anything by taking these issues on at once.

      Things like the pistol brace are making it more and more clear that the SBR rules are nonsensical hassle, and restricting suppressors is pointless. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.

    • Xpunge

      With ATFs cockup on defining trust, unfortunately now’s the time to strike.

      Agree with you in that I’d like to see suppressors, SBRs/SBSs and AOW removed from NFA first. Those items would be much more widely accepted/wanted/attainable.

    • skusmc

      Starting with the Hughes Amendment makes sense for three reasons;

      1) chronologically it was the last real restriction added to the NFA/GCA, so it makes sense as a stepping point to start pushing back
      2) it’s the closest thing to a “ban” on NFA items, and as such is the most ominous. Individuals CAN still get new suppressors/SBR’s. Not so with machine guns.
      3) it’s got a real chance of being overturned. The US vs. Rock Island Armory sets a precedent, and makes a really good argument that it’s not legitimate for the government to tax an item, then refuse to collect said tax. I’ve never heard such a compelling argument for SBR’s or Suppressors. If those (SBR’s/Suppressors) are taken off the Title II list, it’ll probably be by Congress and not the Court that does it.

      It doesn’t have to be this or that, though. These individuals are acting on their own initiative, and there’s nothing stopping others from trying to roll back SBR/Suppressor restrictions. You can try to get your representative to attach a rider, for example, to a bill taking SBR’s off of Title II.

      A broad front beats a narrow one in the fight for our 2A rights, IMO.

    • uisconfruzed

      I think the suppressor should be the first one targeted to remove from the NFA list. I’ve got 30cal & 22 cans, and an AR SBR. Hand someone a QUIET 22 pistol and let them empty a mag. The next statement is “Why did you show me this, now I need one”

    • David169

      I think you are looking at this all wrong.
      In 1980 very few states allowed concealed carry. The NRA started to legally grind on the various states to allow concealed carry. Further they were waiting for the perfect case(s) to come up to define the 2nd Amendment. Now almost every state allows concealed carry and most give reciprocity to other states. Within a few more years our concealed carry permits will be accepted by all states just like driver’s licenses.
      None of this happened overnight. It took a lot of money and hard work. Now the 2nd Amendment is defined and here in California the state is getting its ass kicked in the courts. we will soon have right to carry and like other states and California will have to issue non-resident permits also. This is another milestone that came out of the Palmer case in Washington D.C. Since American citizens are free to travel or live in any of the 50 states their rights must be protected by every state. In Palmer the court rule that D.C. MUST have a shall issue and a non-resident shall issue law(s) in place or the second amendment rights of every person is being violated.
      The 2nd Amendment has two clauses. The first is called a prefatory clause in that it states what is going to follow and the importance of what will follow. The second sentence following the first defines the right. The first part of the 2nd amendment in todays language states that we are all in the militia and are responsible to defend our nation. We at all times should possess weapons of like kind to the National Guards of the states and to the standing military. The AR-15 is a classic example of this right being in existence. The AR-15 uses the same magazines and ammunition as the National Guard and the Army.
      The second sentence of the 2nd Amendment is the part that all gun grabbers choke on “, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This is a clear and concise right of the people that is spelled out for all wannabe dictators to read.
      The NRA and other groups will continue to legally press the states and federal government to right the wrongs that have been committed by unscrupulous politicians trying to take power from the people. They know that freedom or lack of freedom emanates from the barrel of a gun. It just depends on who is holding it. The progressive movement started with Woodrow Wilson and was gaining ground up until the 1980s. Since then they have been consistently defeated by the ruling in the courts. Bill Clinton’s executive order banning the sale of newly manufactured automatic weapons is unconstitutional. When the ideal case comes to the courts the NRA and other pro 2nd Amendment groups will contribute attorneys and money to regain our rights. However the people must be cautious to have the proper case and not muddy up the water with the wrong case.

  • Ethan

    TFB you may want to clarify that this WOULD NOT REMOVE MACHINE GUNS FROM THE RESTRICTED NFA LIST. They would still require all the registration hoops that any Form 1 item does: Background Check, Fingerprinting, photos on file, etc.

    This would simply allow new production of select fire weapons in the US. The acquisition process would remain largely the same. (I believe)

    • BryanS

      Which would drive down prices, and lead to new designs and innovation.

      • Ethan

        Very good point. I was just imagining Bloomberg’s astroturf groups screaming “Now you can just walk into Walmart and buy a machine gun!!”
        They’ve been calling AR-15’s machine guns for years, I can only imagine the disinformation they’ll try to spread over this.

        That said, I really hope it gains traction.

        • BryanS

          Perhaps the more they yell about everything will make them look like the temperance nannies that they are.

          • Adam aka eddie d.

            Sadly enough it’s usually the people who shout the loudest
            who’s going to be heard by the masses.
            That’s just the nature of humanity since at least ancient Lacedaimon (Sparta), and that’s why gun rights organizations and movements have to be loud and clear.
            And you better be loud AND make some very good sense as the opposition, because comfortable lies of the other side
            are usually kinder to the ear.
            That’s just on a historic side note. 🙂

        • AlDeLarge

          A small consolation will be seeing how they try to explain that they’re talking about real automatics now.

          • Ken

            Anti-gunners are idiots, they’ll call autos machine guns just like before. They’re know the anti-gun populace knows nothing about guns so it won’t matter.

    • When writing a post like this I presume that readers are familiar with the NFA process.

    • When writing a post like this I presume that readers are familiar with the NFA process.

  • westford86

    I really like the idea of construction a machiengun on Form 1 with a trust, however I feel like lawsuits like this will only persuade the ATF to eradicate trusts all together. Let’s not play with fire people. When it comes to the ATF it only takes one idiot to ruin it for everyone, look at the recent Sig arm-brace ruling, and the demise of cheap 5.45.

    That being said, I really do hope the ATF looses, because I’ll be sending some Form 1s in asap…

  • ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

    One argument I do not often read on the constitutionality of NFA / Hughes is that it creates an environment where only the wealthy can afford to buy NFA items. The law in an of itself is exclusionary to minorities and poor/ lower middle class. Being that arms are a constitutionally protected right wouldn’t restriction to the wealthy be an argument that could be made against the constitutionality of the NFA laws and regs? Arguments could be made that silencers may protect the hearing of someone firing in a confined space and protect against long term hearing damage. A poor person might be able to scrounge together a few hundred dollars for a silencer but adding the $200 stamp and 6-12 month wait make it impossible to afford. Also it puts a burden on the health care system as these individuals may need hearing aids in the future for protecting themselves.

    I once lost an earplug during a shooting match in which I was shooting a 16″ AR through a barrel. I didn’t take notice with the adrenaline rush. For the following week I heard only cracking through that ear and suffered some permanent loss.

    • nadnerbus

      There should be a press release with a breakdown of the ethnicity percentages of registered NFA owners. Since you know it is overwhelmingly white and male, we could launch an affirmative action campaign on the grounds that it is exclusionary to women and minorities.

      Only partially joking.

  • iowaclass

    Well, since we’ve broached the politics, here would be my pitch:
    1) All guns (rifle pistol shotgun) become NFA firearms under an expanded & amended NFA, as follows —
    2) The Hughes Amendment gets repealed.
    3) The CLEO sign-off gets replaced with NICS.
    4) The $200 tax gets replaced with a 10% tax earmarked for the NICS.
    5) All transfers, commercial, private, monetary or gift, go through NCIS so that crime scene guns can be traced back to last lawful transfer.
    If the Sarah Brady crowd can’t agree on a deal like that, our politics is broken beyond repair, and it probably is, because both sides are running direct-mail fundraising companies masquerading as lobbying groups.

    • DefiniteSpace

      Full registration, along with the wait times for over 300 million firearms to be registered, fingerprints

      How about NO

      • iowaclass

        1) Rather than register 300M at once, it would happen with the next legal transfer of each gun. Guns remaining with their current owners would be like “ghost guns” manufactured by owners for their own use, until transferred.

        2) The fingerprinting is part of the CLEO sign-off; it’s not part of the NICS.
        So how about MAYBE?

        • DefiniteSpace

          Still registration for all firearms- its bad enough here in Michigan with pistol registration

          So… No

          How I would do it

          SBR, SBS, AOW – $5 transfer ( like AOW’s now)
          Suppressors – treat as pistols
          MG – can build new ($200 tax)

          everything else- NICS from fun store, ability to VOLUNTARY NICS for private sales through secure smartphone app

          • iowaclass

            Well, that sounds like (a) we get something we want and (b) the other side gets nothing in exchange. I don’t blame you, because that is how they always operate, and that’s for sure. But it isn’t how politics works. … And I guess that is why politics isn’t really working in this country anymore anyway.
            Keep the faith and godspeed.

          • Dan

            open NICS to the public. owners could record a transfer ID that provides 100% total immunity from all criminal and civil liability.

            watch the brady campaign freak the F out over “privacy” issues.

          • Chrome Dragon

            Modded up for good idea.

          • McThag

            Status quo is preferred to mandatory registration.

          • Chrome Dragon

            Modded up for voluntary NICS on private sales. Something like ICE’s e-verify system? I can see that working.

  • Grindstone50k

    This has as much a chance of happening as Obamacare being repealed by Republicans (or anyone else, for that matter).

  • Firearms information as it pertains to this subject.

  • Grindstone50k

    The irony being that Rs are responsible for those two blights.

  • Pigsnguns

    gun control groups already call semis assault rifles. when new MG start being sold, they’ll have to call them super duper assault rifles

  • Where is Tassie do you live? I have been just about everywhere on that island. By far my favorite place on Earth.

  • AlDeLarge

    No, wealth discrimination is allowed by current Constitutional interpretation. But, since a disproportionate amount of the poor are minorities, discriminating against poor people is sometimes considered discrimination against minorities.

  • supergun

    Total illegal gun law. Total infringement on the 2nd Amendment.