SURPLUS MILITARY FIREARMS FRAMES OR RECEIVERS, ALONE,
WILL BE DENIED IMPORTATION
Members of the Firearms Industry and Other Persons Concerned:
The Bureau has issued a ruling addressing whether applications will be approved
for permits to import frames or receivers of surplus military firearms classi-
fied as curios or relics for purposes of 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44. The Ruling will
appear in the next issue of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bulletin, and will
be substantially as follows:
Section 233 of the Trade and Tariff Act of 1984, 98 Stat. 2991, amended Title
18, United States Code, section 925 to allow licensed importers to import
firearms listed by the Secretary as curios or relics, excluding handguns not
generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to
sporting purposes. The amendment had the effect of allowing the importation of
surplus military curio or relic firearms that were previously prohibited from
importation by 18 U.S.C. section 925(d)(3).
Congressional intent was expressed by Senator Robert Dole in 130 CONG. REC.
S2234 (daily ed., Mar. 2, 1984), as follows:
First. This provision is aimed at allowing collectors to import fine
works of art and other valuable weapons.
Second. This provision would allow the importation of certain military
surplus firearms that are classified as curios and relics by regulations
of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Third. In order for an individual or firm to import a curio or relic
it must first be put on a list by petitioning the Secretary of the
Treasury. The Secretary must find the firearm's primary value is that
of being a collector's item.
Fourth. The only reason a person would purchase these firearms is
because of their peculiar collector's status. And, in fact, they must
be special firearms and classified as such in order to import.
This language clearly shows that Congress intended to permit the importation of
surplus military firearms of special interest and value to collectors and
recognized by ATF as meeting the curio or relic definition in 27 CFR 178.11.
The regulation defines "curios or relics" as firearms of "special interest to
collectors by reason of some quality other than is ordinarily associated with
firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons." The
regulation further defines curios or relics to include "firearms which derive a
substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel,
rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure,
period or event."
In classifying firearms as curios or relics under this regulation, ATF has
recognized only assembled firearms as curios or relics. Moreover, ATF's class-
ification of surplus military firearms as curios or relics has extended only to
those firearms in their original military configuration. Frames or receivers of
curios or relics and surplus military firearms not in their original military
configuration were not generally recognized as curios or relics by ATF since
they were not of special interest or value as collectors' items. Specifically,
they did not meet the definition of curio or relic in section 178.11 as firearms
of special interest to collectors by reason of a quality other than is ordinar-
ily associated with sporting firearms or offensive or defensive weapons.
Furthermore, they did not ordinarily have monetary value as novel, rare, or
bizarre firearms; nor were they generally considered curios or relics because of
their association with some historical figure, period or event.
It is clear from the legislative history that Congress did not intend for the
frames or receivers alone of surplus military firearms, or any other surplus
military firearms not in their original military configuration, to be importable
under section 925(e). It is also clear that only those firearms classified by
ATF as curios or relics were intended to be approved by ATF for importation.
HELD, to be importable under 18 U.S.C. section 925(e), surplus military firearms
must be classified as curios or relics by ATP. Applications by licensed
importers to import frames or receivers alone of surplus military curio or relic
firearms will not be approved under section 925(e). Surplus military firearms
will not be classified as curios or relics unless they are assembled in their
original military configuration, and applications for permits to import such
firearms will not be approved.
Inquiries concerning this circular should refer to its number and be addressed
to the Associate Director (Compliance Operations), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms, P.O. Box 189, Washington, DC 20226.