Readers may already have noticed by now that I am no fan of the ATF. Today's topic would hardly be the worst of the ATF's crimes--it does not appear that they will kill or imprison anyone in this episode, or even destroy anyone's livelihood, but it is still appalling.
A library in Nahant, Massachusetts has an unusual artifact--a Maxim machine gun captured by Sergeant Alvin York in World War I. The story of the heroic charge, led by Sergeant York, to capture this machine gun (and others) was immortalized in the 1941 Gary Cooper movie "Sergeant York." The story of how it ended up in Nahant is, of course, rather less well known. The short version (free registration required) is that a Nahant resident, Corporal Maryland Lewis, was part of Sergeant York's unit, and he simply shipped the gun home to Nahant (a common practice back then--how things change). Nahant has no historical museum, and so except for a brief stint at an American Legion hall, this piece of history has languished, almost forgotten, in the library's attic--until library director Daniel deStefano stumbled over it three years ago.
With the library much more in need of funds than a machine gun, the obvious solution was to sell it, capitalizing on the historical significance of the gun, which might push its value to well over $100,000 (and perhaps double that). That's where the ATF comes in.
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.”But certainly the BATFE is not so blind to history, so intoxicated by its bureaucratic power to bully lesser mortals, that there is not a way to work something out.
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.”
Negotiations with the ATF have put deStefano in a funk. He described a four-way conference call during which an obviously young ATF agent admitted not knowing the story of Sgt. York or much about WWI.Yeah--I suppose jackbooted thuggery is a whole lot more fun than learning about a bunch of boring old history.
According to another article, library officials have tried to get Senators Kennedy and Kerry involved (how is that for an interesting choice of senate saviors?). Shockingly, they have not shown any interest in getting involved.
That's where things stand now, with the BATFE recommending the destruction of an artifact of one of the greatest feats of arms in U.S. history, and with its fate apparently in the hands of two of the most anti-gun Senators in Congress.