LAPD gun buyback pileThat varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but when the Federal Government requires a felon to surrender firearms rather than transfer them, they drop into a legal shadowland where the Fed possesses them but doesn’t own them — and neither does anyone else.

This was revealed by the hapless Assistant Solicitor General Ann O’Connell, in the course of having her legal reasoning and position savaged by most of the Supreme Court Justices, in a case, Henderson vs United States, that challenges a seemingly doomed 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.  It doesn’t appear to be a setup for a 5-4 ruling, as O’Connell’s slipshod and dishonest brief and oral arguments brought out judicial fangs from the span of the spectrum from Scalia to Sotomayor. SCOTUSblog:

Calling to mind Hangar 51 from the Indiana Jones movies, Chief Justice John Roberts asked what happened to all the surrendered firearms, including antiques and heirlooms, that the government has refused to transfer to third parties. Is it really the case that “[t]hey just sat around gathering dust?” The answer was yes, because the government never has title over the weapons and so does not own them.

The country’s in the very best of hands, eh? They don’t own them, but they won’t give them up.

However, it’s good news for Troy Henderson. He’s still a felon and this case was never going to change that, but it’s almost certain that the Supreme Court will direct the lower courts to stop obstructing his attempts to transfer the firearms he now can’t possess. (Henderson is, as is often the case with landmark-case figures, not an entirely admirable figure. He was a Border Patrol agent busted for involvement in drug smuggling).

This predicted, and deserved, loss for the ill-prepared Ann O’Connell, is also a loss for her allies in the case, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the only one of a clutch of amici who came in on the government side. (Henderson’s side has such strange bedfellows as the Institute for Justice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the NRA).

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

4 thoughts on “Surrendered Firearms? Eternal Legal Limbo


Worked in a place one time where guys left there food/lunches in a community reefer. Seems that “that guy” was know to pilfer the goodies. When finally confronted regarding the issue, he snivelled that “it did not have anybody’s name on it”.

He was instructed in the more salient clause: “It did not have YOUR name on it.”

Hognose Post author 

Rob, I scanned it from a paper magazine, the ATOM or Armadni Technicky Obrazkovy Magazin, Army Technical Illustrated Magazine, of the defunct Czechoslovak People’s Army of the defunct Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the quisling state that existed from 1948 to circa 1990. It was published by the military publishing house Nas’e Vojsko meaning “Our Army,” which in the spirit of the Good Soldier Schweik the cynical draftees referred to as Jejich Vojsko, “Their Army.”

To my astonishment, NV still exists. It was sold off by the Ministry of Defence in 1996. Assuming that Czech is not among your languages, here is the Google translation of the Czech wikipedia page on Nase Vojsko. It is the quality of any google translation — pretty bad. But then, it’s Wikipedia to start with, so it’s not like you can run with it uncorroborated.

Personally, I am comfortable that my use of the ATOM illustration falls within Fair Use. But thanks to that page there is a link to the firm:

Which provides this info email:

[email protected]

And notes also, that they have a North American distributor in Canada. Here’s their contact page, which has a phone number.

I’m guessing that email to the publisher is the most direct way to get your question answered; I’ll follow this up with a direct email if time permits.

By the way, if you’re like most Hawaiians, you’ll be delighted to know it’s still below freezing, but not snowing, in New Hampshire. It snowed yesterday and will snow tomorrow, however. However there was a cardinal in the tree outside my window this morning.


A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away that no longer exists, I had the dubious honor of helping turn in the property of an infantry company that was in the process of standing down, including turning in all the sheen guns, rifles and whatnot. Several trips were involved, so I got to know the guy at the depot, and one trip, he had wooden boxes full of commercial pistols, looked remarkably like the pile of handguns in the article. Commercial 1911’s, Pythons, Smith’s and such, just haphazzardly tossed in the boxes. Some junk, but some dandies as well. When querried, he said the local MP company was fixin’ to stand down as well and had brought in all the stuff they had confiscated over the years. He thought he’d probably just turn them over to the new management along with everything else, when they showed up to take over the depot in a few days.

The one thing he was very sure about was, he wouldn’t look the other way for a few moments, although he did express his regrets. I distinctly remember a 4″ Python sitting atop the pile in one box, doing a fair imitation of that one puppy in the litter that is communicating with you by telepathy. Probably just as well, customs would probably have found whatever I’d carried off and thrown me under the building at Leavenworth, but it was, overall, a damn shame.