ATF Threat To Curios And Relics

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has released a new report entitled National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment: Firearms in Commerce. It was released May 5th and has received some attention in the media. That attention is concentrated primarily on privately made firearms and the increase in production of all firearms since the year 2000.

As they say, the devil is in the details and this 308-page report touches on a lot more than the increase in production and privately made firearms. While I may get into depth on other parts of the report and the BATFE’s recommendation in later posts, today I want to concentrate on what they have to say about curios and relics.

As things stand now, a C&R is defined by Title 27 Code of Federal Regulations §478.26. They can be a) firearms manufactured more than 50 years prior to today; b) firearms certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum that exhibits firearms to be of museum interest; or c) any other firearm that gets a substantial part of its value from being “novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.” Thus, a curio and relic could be any firearm ranging from a Ruger Model 77 made in April 1972 to Gen. George Patton’s personal handguns. In my own collection of curios and relics is a Winchester Model 50 semi-auto shotgun. It qualified under the 50 year rule and its only real claim to fame for me is that it was manufactured in 1957 which is the year of birth.

The report devotes parts of two pages to curios and relics as well as C&R FFLs. As I have held this FFL since 1997, this was of particular interest. First they note that the number of 03 FFLs has increased by 148% since 2000 with there being 59,457 currently. Those of us with this license now compose 40% of all FFLs. Much is that proportional increase is a result of the decrease in numbers of 01 FFLs due to increased regulations and the anti-gun policies of the Obama and Biden administrations. Second they note while they do have a list of all firearms classified as curios and relics since 1972, they do not have a data system that tracks information on these firearms, museums that certify museum interest, etc. They then note their data analysis questions the 50-year rule. Therein lies the rub.

Here are their recommendations (Page 162):

1. ATF should receive funding to develop a data system that tracks the history of each C&R firearm on the list to include: full description of the firearm, the date the firearm is added to the C&R list, identification of the criteria met to add the firearm to the C&R list, the person making the request, what museum stated the firearm was of historical interest, and who stated the firearm was rare, novel, or collectible. The three criteria for approving a firearm to be added to the C&R list are found in 27 C.F.R. §478. As possible, this information should be catalogued for ATFs current list C&R List -January 1972 through April 2018.

2. DOJ should review the C&R criteria in 27 C.F.R. §478 to determine if the “more than 50 years old” factor is still valid in determining that a firearm is truly a curio or relic. The C&R provisions were enacted in 1968 and firearms more than 50 years old at that time were manufactured prior to 1918. Today, firearms that are more than 50 years old were manufactured prior to 1972 and this now includes a wide variety of modem firearms to include some AR-15 type rifles, AK-47 type rifles, SKS rifles, and semi-automatic handguns. Importation, transfer, and background check regulations are different for firearms on the
C&R list and holders of a Type 03 FFL.

As I see it, these recommendations boil down to two things. First, BATFE says we want money to fund what we should have already been doing with existing funding. Second, BATFE is saying Springfield 1903s we were cool with but those icky ARs, AKs, SKSs, and semi-auto handguns give us the vapors.

Unfortunately, the Gun Control Act of 1968 gives the Attorney General the authority to define a curio or relic by regulation. Given the anti-gun, anti-rights bias of both Merrick Garland and President Joe Biden, this is a real problem. I could foresee them categorically removing the 50-year rule from what constitutes a curio and relic and limiting them to what is on the list. January 20. 2025 as well as January 2023 cannot get here soon enough.

3 thoughts on “ATF Threat To Curios And Relics”

  1. This is already getting ugly, with plenty of opportunistic liars and autocrats on both sides. Pulling the lever and hoping for the best is what got us to where we are today. By and large, I see Jackasses and RINOs.
    As long as incumbents continue to win over 90% of their races, nothing will change. If it was a 90% turnover every time it might be different, but like strict term limits, that is about as likely to happen as nationwide federal constitutional carry.

  2. That means my Colt Detective Special and Pythons are relics. Does that make me a relic too?

    It is interesting that they are just addressing this now. Someone must have realized that a bunch of M1As and ARs are now C&Rs by definition and the number will start to grow exponentially in the next few years.

Comments are closed.