Hollis vs. Lynch: A Very Complex Machine-Gun Case

Okay, we’ll say this upfront: This story gets way into the weeds about NFA rules. Law Shield thinks this stuff is fascinating, but your mileage may vary.

The case is Hollis vs. Lynch: The players are Jay Aubrey Isaac Hollis, individually and Trustee of the Jay Aubrey Isaac Hollis Revocable Living Trust, who has filed a notice of appeal in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in his complaint against Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ATF Acting Director Thomas E. Brandon.

The basics: Complying with the registration requirements for automatic firearms and paying the $200 tax to exercise his right, Mr. Hollis, on behalf of the Trust, filed a Form 1 with the BATFE to manufacture an M16 machine gun. The BATFE then approved that Form 1, giving Mr. Hollis permission to manufacture the M16. Two days later, the BATFE revoked Mr. Hollis’ approval.  Their basis for the revocation was that a trust was not listed as a “person” under a provision of the Gun Control Act (GCA) and the ATF has interpreted this to mean that an unincorporated trust is not a person in and of itself, therefore, it reverted back to Hollis the individual.  The ATF stated that since the ATF is prohibited from approving any private person’s application to manufacture and register a machine gun, the original approval was issued by mistake.

On October 30, 2014, Hollis filed his complaint against then Attorney General Eric Holder and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“BATFE”) seeking to overturn both the National Firearms Act and the ban on private ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986.

Or, more simply, he’s asking for relief against a de facto ban on the transfer or possession of a machine gun manufactured after May 19, 1986 — because machine guns are arms suitable for militia use, as described in the Heller case.

The case, originally Hollis vs. Holder, et al, Civil Action No.3:14-cv-03872-M, is being led by attorneys Stephen Stamboulieh and Alan Beck.

“The M16 is the quintessential militia arm and is thus protected under any reading of Miller or Heller,” said attorney Stamboulieh. In a Reddit post, Stamboulieh added, “Hollis filed a Form 1 to manufacture a post-1986 machinegun using his Trust. The BATFE granted approval of his form and issued him a stamp. The BATFE then ‘disapproved’ his stamp and said ‘haha, just kidding on the approval.’ Hollis contacted me, and we sued under a variety of legal theories attacking the NFA and the Hughes Amendment [18 USC 922(o)].”

One of the theories argued was that because the GCA and the National Firearms Act differ in the definition of a “person,” the NFA definition which includes trusts should prevail, allowing the Hollis Trust to manufacture and register the machine gun.

However, the District Court disagreed and dismissed his claims on August 7, 2015.  On August 28, 2015, Hollis filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals in Case No. 15-10803. We will keep you apprised.

“Winning this case is critical to the security of the nation’s citizens,” said Dick Heller, chairman of the Heller Foundation, an organization which is helping fund the legal fight. Dick Heller is the Heller in the famous court case. “We think it’s important enough that donors to the Heller Foundation can now make a directed contribution on our web site, HellerFoundation.org, for the support of this case.”

To read the District Court’s Opinion, click here.

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