Wednesday, April 25, 2007

ATF Wants to Scrap Sgt. York's Captured Machine Gun

For those of you who don’t know, Sergeant Alvin York was an American infantryman who served with distinction during World War I. He received the Medal of Honor for leading an assault on a German machine gun emplacement. Sergeant York’s citation states:

"The Argonne Forest, France, 8 October 1918. After his platoon suffered heavy casualties, Alvin York assumed command. Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with 4 German officers and 128 men and several guns."

One of the machine guns captured by York that day found its way to the small town of Nahant, Massachusetts where it was recently discovered in the local library’s attic. According to a recent article in The Boston Globe:

“Library officials say they researched markings on the gun and searched local newspaper archives and town documents for answers about the weapon's origin, determining that the gun had been given to the town in 1918 by an Army clerk, Nahant native Mayland Lewis.

“According to the research, Lewis had plucked the weapon from a pile given up by surrendering Germans and shipped it home. Briefly prized as a souvenir of the war, it was paraded through the town on Armistice Day in 1919 by Boy Scouts who towed it in a red wagon. But over the years it faded from public view.”


Imagine a world where the Boy Scouts are allowed to parade a fully functional machine gun in a red wagon! America has changed so much, and in this particular area I’m not convinced it’s for the better. The article is unclear on how they made the connection between the weapon and Sergeant York, but it is clear that a relic of World War I is in clear danger of being destroyed as the weapon was never registered:

“Library officials soon learned that the gun is illegal and that they can do very little with it.

“Federal gun laws prohibit possession or sale of automatic guns unless they are registered with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In the library attic for years, the German machine gun was never registered. The library isn't allowed to register the gun now because federal law prohibits new registrations on automatic weapons, except in rare circumstances.”


I’d love to know what those “rare circumstances” are and why a World War I relic wouldn’t qualify as the ATF seems to “interpret” it as “no circumstances.” Right now the weapon has been transferred to local law enforcement to prevent confiscation by the ATF. The library has contacted their Senators, but as their Senators are Kerry and Kennedy, they haven’t received a response.

This is an important piece of American history, yet the ATF seems to care more about their own bureaucracy and power plays than truly serving the best interests of the American people. Destroying a priceless historical artifact will not keep America’s streets safer, nor does it meet the spirit of the 1986 law (which is another topic entirely!). I’m planning on writing some representatives on this one – it probably won’t help, but I believe that it’s always worse to sit by and do nothing.

1 comment:

Geoff Cruz said...

I know this is an old post but whatever happened to the gun? Was it decommissioned or destroyed?