Under the National Firearms Act, only possessors who lawfully make, manufacture, or import firearms can and must register them; the transferee does not and cannot register. 26 U.S.C.S. § 5812, 26 U.S.C.S. § 5841(b). It is, however, unlawful for any person to receive or possess a firearm which is not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. 26 U.S.C.S. § 5861(d).
Defendants were charged under state law with possession of and conspiracy to possess unregistered hand grenades. Defendants contended that the federal registration of firearms violated the self-incrimination clause of U.S. Const. amend. V. The district court agreed and granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the granting of motion to dismiss.
Did the federal registration of firearms violate the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment?
Registration information was not available to state or federal authorities other than the Internal Revenue Service and could not be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding with respect to a prior or concurrent violation of law. In the instant case, scienter need not have been alleged because that was a regulatory measure in the interest of the public safety and it was self-evident that possession of hand grenades was not an innocent act. Defendants' motion to dismiss should not have been granted because the National Firearms Act did not violate the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment.