The National Firearms Act (NFA) enacted in 1934, imposes a tax on the transfer and manufacturing of certain firearms, and mandates registration of those firearms. Later amended in 1968, Title II of the Gun Control Act (GCA) removed the requirement for possessors of unregistered firearms to register if it was already possessed by the person. In order to legally acquire NFA firearms you must get approval by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of a registered weapon. To help you understand the process in more depth here is a helpful overview of the types of weapons that need a NFA Tax Stamp, and what you need to do in order to pay the tax and register your weapon.
All of the NFA weapons that need a tax stamp (title II weapons):
- Machine guns (automatic weapons); the frames or receivers of machine guns, any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting weapons into machine guns, any part designed and intended for converting a weapon into a machine gun, any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if in the possession or under the control of a person.
- Sound suppressors (silencers) and any part designed and intended for fabricating a silencer.
- Short barreled shotguns (less than 18 inches in length)
- Short barreled rifles (less than 16 inches in length) includeds shotguns and can also be known as SBR.
- Destructive devices ie. Bazookas, mortars, anti-tank guns (over caliber .50), Molotov cocktails
- “Any other weapons” ie. Cane guns, Gadget-type firearms, “pen” guns which fire a projectile by the action of an explosive, H&R Handyguns, Ithaca Auto-Burglar guns
*It is important to point out that in some states machine guns are illegal and you should check with your state’s regulations before purchasing.
Step 1: Purchase NFA Item from dealer with class 3 license
The first step in the process is to purchase your firearm since you will need the serial number for your paperwork. When you purchase through a dealer with a class 3 license you can process paperwork through them. Once you have purchased your firearm, the dealer will hold the weapon until you are approved. If your paperwork is not approved for whatever reason, you may or may not get all of your money back depending on your dealer. Some dealers will allow you to put the payment in escrow, but be sure to be clear on all contingencies before buying.
ATF Form 4
ATF Form 4 is the application for tax paid transfer and registration of a firearm. You need to complete this form in duplicate to start the process of obtaining your NFA tax stamp. Remember that any misleading or false statement made on your paperwork is considered a felony offense.
Fingerprints & recent photos
Submitted with your ATF Form 4, you will need 2 sets of fingerprint cards and 2 recent photos of yourself in a passport style. Fingerprint cards can be made at your local Police Station or Sheriff's Department so contact them for more information. As for the passport photos, you can go to any place that takes photos for passports (like Walgreens).
When the transferee of a NFA firearm is an individual, form 5330.20, which is the certification of compliance with 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(5)(B), must be filed. This form certifies that you have US citizenship.
Signature by Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO)
You will need a CLEO signature on your NFA Form 4. The CLEO signature it to have an authority in your local area check for criminal background or activity and look for a legitimate reason to deny your request. The authority can be your Chief of police, county Sheriff, State or Federal Judge. Don’t be discouraged if one of them is not willing to sign, the worst that is going to happen is you get told no and you have to move on to the next qualified CLEO.
A $200 tax stamp needs to be bought for each weapon transaction submitted unless you are buying a weapon that falls under the “any other weapons” category, in this case the tax stamp will cost $5. A check or money order made payable to the Bureau of ATF can be sent with the application forms to the Bureau of ATF, NFA Branch.
After the paperwork is received an extensive background check is done and your fingerprints are ran by FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). If all is in order, approval is granted and your ATF form 4, fingerprints, and photos are filed with the BATFE and your duplicate Form 4 with canceled tax stamp is sent to you. The process can take around 90-180 days but recently has been taking 7-11 months.
This is just a brief overview of the process for an individual to get a NFA Tax Stamp. I would recommend you consult your dealer for further questions. For more information contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Good luck with your application and be patient!