House-Passed Amendment Could Put Machine Guns into Hands of Criminals

For Release:  Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Washington, DC — Late last night, the House passed several amendments to the Commerce, Justice Science (CJS) appropriations bill that are supported by the gun lobby and would endanger public safety. One of these amendments would make it easier for criminals to obtain the most destructive weapons available to civilians — including fully automatic machine guns — without the background check or certification by law enforcement required by the law regulating such weapons: the National Firearms Act (NFA).

Currently, a loophole in federal regulations allows individuals to set up a legal entity known as a “gun trust” in order to purchase dangerous NFA-regulated weapons without complying with the comprehensive background check, identity verification, and law enforcement certification required under the NFA for individuals buying these weapons. The amendment passed by the House would prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from finalizing a rule that extends the law enforcement certification requirement to gun trusts.

Kristen Rand, Violence Policy Center Legislative Director, states:

“This reckless and dangerous amendment benefits only the firearms industry, which wants to build a new civilian market for some of the most dangerous weapons. ATF must be allowed to finalize its rule in order to protect public safety and ensure that criminals do not have access to the most destructive weapons available to the public.”

Below is additional background on the House-passed amendment:

  • The NFA regulates the transfer of the most destructive weapons available to civilians, including fully automatic machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, silencers, Molotov cocktails, and bazookas. Individuals who transfer these weapons must undergo an enhanced background check that includes the submission of fingerprints and a photograph.
  • The ATF also requires a local law enforcement official to sign off on an application to possess an NFA weapon in order to ensure that individuals with dangerous histories do not have access to them.
  • A loophole in ATF regulations now allows the transfers of weapons to companies or associations, known as “gun trusts,” with no NFA background check or sign-off from law enforcement. ATF has proposed a rule that would require individuals in the trusts to undergo the background check and law enforcement certification currently required of individual NFA-weapon applicants.
  • The House-passed amendment prohibits the ATF from finalizing extension of the law enforcement certification to gun trusts.


The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
(202) 822-8200 x104