Since 1934 the Federal Government has regulated the ownership of machine guns and several other types of weapons.
The National Firearms Act of 1934 provides for the registration, and the taxing of the transfer, of a class of weapons described as NFA Title 2 weapons (sometimes referred to as "Class 3 weapons"). These include machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, silencers (also known as suppressors) and also a class of weapons known as "Any Other Weapon" (AOW). An example of an AOW is, but not limited to, a smooth barreled pistol or a short barreled combination gun.
The transfer tax on machine guns, short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, and suppressors is $200. The transfer tax on AOWs is $5. This transfer tax is a one time only tax and not an annual tax. Each time an NFA weapon changes hands, the tax is charged.
The paperwork required for the transfer of an NFA weapon consists of an application form with the applicant's photograph attached and a fingerprint card. These are submitted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in duplicate along with the transfer tax. The finger print cards are forwarded to the FBI for a background check; not very different from a background check that would be performed for a "Secret Level" security clearance. The background check and transfer process takes about 3 months or so depending on the examiners’ work load.
One copy of the approved application is sent back to the dealer (or seller of the weapon). The dealer contacts the buyer and makes the physical transfer of the weapon at that time. The approved application stays with the weapon and is proof that the buyer has paid the transfer tax. The original should be stored in a safe place and a photocopy carried with the weapon should the legality of the NFA weapon be questioned by law enforcement officers.
The new manufacture of machine guns or the conversion of semi auto weapons to full auto weapons that are transferable to individuals has been prohibited since May 19, 1986. This means that all transferable machine guns that are available for sale to the general public must have been manufactured and registered prior to May 19, 1986.