A tank in the U.S. can have operational guns, if the owner has a federal Destructive Device permit, and state laws don’t prohibit it. The permit costs $200, and the applicant must swear he hasn’t been a “fugitive from justice,” “adjudicated mentally defective” or convicted of “a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” A local law-enforcement official, usually a sheriff or police chief, has to sign off on the application…
Earlier this month, Mr. Bauer, the Texas banker, took his Chaffee out for a spin in his warehouse parking lot. He had rigged the .50-caliber machine gun on the turret with a propane system that generates the noise and muzzle flash of gunfire, without the bullets. He fired off several bursts.
Minutes later, two Port Lavaca police cruisers pulled up. The first officer rolled down the window and asked dryly: “You know why we’re here, right?”
Mr. Bauer assured him that no actual rounds had been fired. Still, the officer said, “we had multiple calls—people get scared.”
The second policeman, Jeremy Marshall, got out of his car and eyeballed Mr. Bauer’s tank. “Awesome,” he said.