I think some gun folks may be a bit confused as to the law (an easy thing when it comes to the NFA. I won’t claim to be an expert either). I’ve heard a few pro-gun folks say recently:
Having a “machine gun” permit, you open up your house to the ATF to come in and search your house any time they want
Whether this is true or not depends. If you get a fully transferable pre-86 machinegun because you paid your NFA transfer tax, filled out ATF Form 4, and undergone the background check, police permission and fingerprinting, and the ATF issues your stamp, you’re good to go from that point. The ATF can’t just walk into your house without a warrant because you possess an NFA tax stamp (which is, in effect, your license. Legally, it’s just proof you paid the tax, which is required for possession.).
The only time ATF inspections become an issue is if you become a licensed Class III dealer (or SOT – Special Occupational Taxpayer). These days you can’t do that if you don’t have a fixed place of business, with regular hours, that’s zoned for such purposes. The “kitchen table” dealer is largely a thing of the past.
If you have a Class III SOT and FFL, you can obtain pre-86 and post-86 dealer samples. To obtain post dealer samples, you have to have a signed letter from the local police department on letterhead stating that they wish to have a demonstration of a certain machinegun. If you get a post-86 dealer sample, you’re permitted to possess firearm as long as you retain your SOT status. For pre-86 dealer samples, you may retain the firearm even after your SOT status expires or is relinquished. Pre-86 dealer samples are generally firearms imported prior to 1986, but after 1968, when the Gun Control Act made importation of fully transferable machineguns illegal. My understanding is that prices on pre-86 dealer samples are not really any lower than fully transferable machineguns.
Many collectors obtained their own FFLs and Class III SOT status to trade in these firearms before the practice was ended, so that’s where the idea that the ATF could come into your home without a warrant probably came from. If you hold a type 1 or 2 FFL, the ATF can conduct inspections at your place of busines, and if that’s your home, then they can come into your home for inspections.
If you’re thinking of getting into NFA collecting, don’t let that fear stop you. If you get a fully transferable pre-86 machinegun, along with your stamp, the only business you need have with the ATF beyond that point is filling out ATF form 5320.20, if you want to transport your NFA firearm out of your state of residence, or to a new residence out of state.
Interesting factoid. If you possess a valid C&R license, and your NFA machinegun is C&R, you do not need to fill out 5320.20; your Type 3 FFL will do. Type 3 C&R FFLs subject you to possible ATF inspection, but not in your home. If the ATF would like to audit you, they will arrange a time at an ATF office. You don’t surrender your 4th amendment rights by having a C&R license.
Ah, yes. The joys of “reasonable gun regulations”