Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Antique Machine Gun's Fate Uncertain

Here's a curious story. The Nahant, MA Public Library is apparently the proud owner of an antique World War I-era Maxim machine gun captured by Sgt. (then Corporal) Alvin York and his men during a battle in the Argonne in October 1918, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. From Sgt. York's Medal of Honor citation: "[a]fter his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and 3 other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Cpl. York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns."

The machine gun reportedly ended up here in the states when one of the soldiers who chronicled Sgt. York's bravery shipped the gun back to his hometown of Nahant, MA.

Unfortunately, the machine gun was apparently never registered, as is required by the National Firearms Act of 1934, and there is no current way for items not already registered to be added to the NFA registry. The library, which wishes to sell the gun to raise money for building improvements, has sought without success for a way to acquire legal ownership.

NAHANT - The Nahant Public Library wants to sell one of its most valuable possessions: a German machine gun captured by Army Sgt. Alvin C. York during World War I.
John Welsh, a library trustee, said a bureaucratic tangle soon emerged and hasn’t been resolved. “It’s a machine gun and it’s not registered, so apparently we can’t sell it until we find a legal way to own it,” he said. “We’ve had estimates that it could be worth up to $200,000, presuming we can show its relationship to Sgt. York.”

Both Welsh and deStefano said at least two agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) have listened to the story but offered no recommendations, other than to suggest the machine gun be destroyed.

“Imagine destroying the German machine gun that was captured by Sgt. York just because it’s not registered,” said Welsh, adding that the library trustees’ decision to seek legislative help was equally unproductive. “We didn’t get anywhere. It seems nobody wants to touch the problem and be credited as the politician who put another machine gun back into society. But it’s not like we’re going to sell it to some street gang. Besides, there’s no ammunition.”
Destroying such a piece of history would be truly unfortunate. Hopefully the library will find some way to "legalize" this historic weapon but, as the article notes, this will likely require an act of Congress to do so.


Mulligan said...

amazing.... it seems no one in the justice system has any common sense anymore. can't someone remove the firing pin, reclassify the thing as ART and hang it on the wall in some museum ?

Peripatetic Engineer said...

Typical for the People Republic of Taxachussets