As a daily reader of your blog, I’ve read over and over again about how Pre-1899 guns are legal. The Internet is full of such advise dating back a long time. However, I still fail to see how that would add much protection against confiscation. The ATF has seized Airsoft guns and police confiscated muzzleloaders from one home in my area after one resident (who was not the owner of the weapons!) was arrested there. The list goes on from there and contains nothing that shows that law enforcement makes any distinction between antiques and modern guns.
I believe that if we ever face full-blown gun confiscation, the people on the streets sent out to collect guns will simply take everything they can find, no matter if it is pre-1899 or not. They will grab things because they look like a gun, just like the assault weapons ban went after scary looking guns. Considering the price of a pre-1899, quality of manufacturing, age and wear, and often now hard to come by calibers, I’d rather spend my money on two modern rifles. “Use one and stash the other” seems safer than hope that law enforcement will correctly identify an antique.
Am I missing something? – Peter A.
JWR Replies: What you may be missing is going to jail and a felony conviction that could cost you your right to vote and your right to own any modern gun for the rest of your life. When a gun is seized outside of jurisdictional authority, then the owners almost invariably get their guns back, and they are not charged. But if there is ever a confiscatory ban, it will be under color of law, and most likely with a felony penalty attached. At least for the owner of pre-1899s, unless the law changes you will be able to openly possess, use, carry, and hunt without fear of being arrested and convicted of a felony.
I don’t guarantee that hedging into pre-1899 guns will be a panacea. But I’m fairly certain that the pre-1899 exemption will remain in place in the U.S. for many more years. The law hasn’t changed since 1968. After all, the available pool of pre-1899 antique guns gets smaller with every passing year, so their regulation will probably continue to be a “non-issue” in the eyes of politicians. Granted, there is the small chance that a highly-publicized criminal event might draw attention to pre-1899 antiques and initiate new legislation that would restrict them. (Such as a political assassination using an antique gun.) But that risk shows us the nature of all hedges: They are a form of insurance based on actuarial odds. I still predict that they that pre-1899s will prove to be worth buying. Doing so will hedge our bets on new legislation or executive orders.