The sounds of the Las Vegas massacre sure do sound like that from a fully-automatic firearm. Unfortunately, due to so much misrepresentation and narrative advancement around gun control, many if not most Americans don’t understand about machine guns. Fed a barrage of anti “Assault-Weapons” propaganda, many people think these types of guns are common, widely available, and easily obtainable. None of those things are true. Given that most journalists have only seen a gun in a police officer’s holster, much less held or shot one, here’s a primer you can rely on.
A machine gun or, fully automatic firearm, fires continuously as the shooter holds down the trigger, and will not stop unless the trigger is released, or the ammunition supply to the firearm is exhausted. These firearms are rare among enthusiasts, are banned at almost all gun ranges, and most gun hobbyists have never even seen one in person, much less fired one. Semi-automatic firearms require a person to pull the trigger for each bullet.
Despite being called “assault weapons” or weapons of war, these are no different than any modern firearm. Semi-auto technology was new in the late 1800’s.
In 1986 Congress passed, and Ronald Reagan signed the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act. That ridiculously named legislation mandated that no new machine guns could be manufactured, imported, sold, bartered, etc., for private use in the United States. All legally owned machine guns in private hands in the United States were manufactured before 1986.
Supply and Demand
When supply is decreasing, and demand is constant or rising, what happens to prices? I just checked one of the lower priced guns available in both fully-automatic, and semi-automatic for a price comparison and here’s a typical difference – a semi-auto Mac 10 can be had in like new condition for less than $800, while a fully-automatic Mac 10 will be closer to $8,000. Be advised, there is no reason for that price differential other than the market shortage produced by the 1986 ban – except for one part; they are the same firearm. That model is one of the least expensive available as well – machine gun shooting is VERY expensive, both for the initial buy-in of the hardware, and the cartridges themselves, as a trip to the range for a machine-gun shoot involves orders of magnitude more ammo to enjoy.
Let’s say you want to buy a machine gun. How do you do it? Well if you’re a regular consumer of the MSM/CNN/NYT you could be forgiven for thinking a person just goes down to the WalMart with cash in hand and leaves with the gun a few minutes later. Uh – no! All full-auto purchases in the United States are vetted both at the state and federal level and take quite a while.
Buying a Machine Gun
Only gun dealers with a special type of license (Class 3) can transfer these firearms, and the process is you pay a special tax ($200), fill out a lengthy application with photos and fingerprints, and then wait, and wait, and wait. I just polled two machine-gun enthusiasts who report the current wait time is about a 12 months for the BATF to process a purchase application at the federal level. Then there are state and local restrictions to manage. In some states like Virginia, the state doesn’t add much of a delay, while others do. There are several states like New York which completely prohibit these firearms altogether.
Finally, after a successful purchase of the firearm, the regulations don’t stop there – you may not treat this as a regular firearm. The special rules require owners to, among other things, ask the ATF for special permission if the firearm is going to be transported across state lines. Full-auto ownership is a commitment of time and money unlike any other in the shooting sports.
Given the vetting, these firearms are almost never used in crimes – “[s]ince1934; there appear to have been at least two homicides committed with legally owned automatic weapons. One was a murder committed by a law enforcement officer.” Absent this Las Vegas massacre, if true, that’s all for legal ownership issues. What about illegal?
If you are a competent machinist, with a machine shop advanced knowledge of firearm operations, I’m told it’s not very difficult to manufacture the part(s) necessary to turn a semi-auto into a machine gun. It is however highly illegal – federal law provides for a $250,000 fine + 10 years in prison if you haven’t complied with the law. Not exactly a slap on the wrist. There are also various gadgets and add-ons that people have used to try and reproduce the effects of fully automatic fire, but they are often made illegal by the ATF and are generally not reliable components.