Beware the Grandfather Clause

Our friend Jim Shults of Shults Media Relations, LLC sent the following to his email list with the request that it be circulated within the pro-rights community.  Jim is in Colorado which is may soon become the epicenter of the next fight over Second Amendment rihts.  My take is that an amendment that makes a bad bill more palatable, and thus more likely to pass, is not good for our rights.  One such “sweetener” is a “Grandfather Clause” which would exempt current owners from a ban or prohibition.  The term has no meaning in law and is simply shorthand for some exception that exempts some currently-possesed items that would be otherwise banned.  The actual wording is, as Jim points out, critical.  It may mean that the grandfathered item is exempt from the ban and can be pass on to heirs or be sold, or it could mean that it is exempt only so long as the original owner is alive and must be in effect buried with the owner. 

The idea that one generation could sign away the rights of the next generation is hateful and short-sighted anyway — not unlike passing a staggering debt on to the next generation, but that’s another topic.  Here is Jim’s release.  Read it and keep it in mind as the Gun Rights War heats up again.

Chris Knox

For Immediate Release


Grandfather Clauses in Firearm, Magazine

and Ammunition Laws

Beginning in 2013 we can expect a flood of state and federal bills/laws to restrict or flat out outlaw certain firearms, ammunition, magazines, accessories and even attachments (such as bayonet lugs, etc.).


Here is something most people do not know and we hope you in your capacity will make much more public. First, many legislatures will write bills/laws that have a grandfather clause in them so as to make the law more palatable to the opposition and citizens. But if they can ram the particular law through without a grandfather clause, they will (Colorado will become a new and primary target for ram through tactics). However, and again if compromise is necessary to pass the particular law they may put in a grandfather clause; but what does that really mean?


A grandfather clause may imply that if you already own that newly banned or restricted firearm, magazine, ammunition, etc. that your stuff is exempt from the bill or new law. Thus, you may think you and your currently owned stuff is protected. It’s sort of a feel good thing “whew I already own it so I am safe.” But wait, there’s more!

Here is the catch. The grandfather clause is defined by the precise specific legal language or definition–or lack thereof–in the particular bill or law. A grandfather clause can easily be defined or not defined (in detail) depending on how the bill/law is written–the devil is really in the details.

It can mean you can keep the item(s), if you can prove your absolute ownership (to their satisfaction) prior to the law; or that if you have it you can keep it regardless, but under penalty of law you may be forbidden to give away, sell or in any manner transfer the grandfathered item to anyone else–period! You can’t take it to a gun show, sell it privately, or even put it in your will. It is all illegal.

And as stated previously, depending on how the law is written or structured (and it can be very cleverly worded) a person possessing the item may have to absolutely prove that they obtained the item before the ban went into effect–or they may (again depending precisely on how the law and exemptions are or are not worded) be in prima facie violation (like possessing a stolen gun) and open to prosecution. The choice to prosecute is up to the applicable district attorney or federal prosecutor’s office. If convicted it can mean a criminal record, loss of all firearms, jail or prison, fines, etc. and, regardless of the penalty the banned/grandfather item(s) will be confiscated.

Still feel good about grandfather clauses? If not, then put out the word about how they work and be prepared to recognize and fight against this political scam.

— xxx —

A short white paper prepared courtesy of Shults Media Relations, LLC

A PR firm for and a friend of the firearm industry and firearm owners