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Automatic weapons in USA

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Bif, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. Bif

    Bif Member

    Hello everybody

    Sorry for my english, i'm french, i've a research task about weapons in USA, first about automatic weapons, but I don't know the gun laws in this country, and i would like to know where the automatic weapons are totally unrestricted, where these weapons are registered, where we need an authorization (a permission) to buy one, and where these weapons are prohibited ?
    Maybe a colored map of USA would be easier to understand for a stranger.
    Thank you.
  2. ultradoc

    ultradoc Well-Known Member

    Don't know much on this subject but I do know that they need to be registered and you need a license to own one. Twice a year folks from around America go to Knob Creek,Ky to shoot their full auto weapons. It's quite a site!!
  3. kingpin008

    kingpin008 Well-Known Member

    Yes and no. Yes, there is a registry that lists all available full-auto weapons available for transfer in the US. However, there is no "license" necessary. What you need is a tax stamp - they two are not the same.
  4. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Well-Known Member


    1934 to 1986 new machine guns could be registered to civilian owners on an ATF Form 4 or made and registered on an ATF Form 1.

    Starting 1986, only machineguns registered for civilian ownership by 19 May 1986 were eligible for transfer of registration to civilian ownership. No new manufacture allowed on Form 1.

    Registration tax has been $200 since 1934 (the MSRP of a Thompson gun in 1934 or a 100% tax).

    The 1934 National Firearms Act controls machineguns at the federal level. My home state defers to federal regulations. Some states have their own laws on machineguns. To my knowledge, most states allow the federal gov't to control machineguns, and if it is OK with the feds, it is OK with the state. A few states limit legal machine guns to the collector's items listed on the ATF Curio and Relic List.

    I looked at buying a Reising Model 50 for $150.00 in 1985, but balked at the $200.00 registration tax. Since the 19 May 1986 freeze, legally registered Reisings go for $3,000.00. Machine gun collection has become a rich man's game and they have a vested interest in keeping the registry closed.

    My cousin bought a legally registered machine gun. You locate a registered owner willing to transfer registration, you file a Form 4 with ATF including two passport quality photos, two FBI fingerprint cards, a CLEO (sign off by chief law enforcement officer: county sheriff, district attorney or police chief), pay a non-refundable $200.00 fee, and wait about four months. If eligible, you get a copy of the Form 4 with a really cool looking tax stamp attached and you complete the transfer.

    Of the few hundred thousands of legally registered machineguns, there has been one murder, by a cop using a legally registered machinegun.

    "Rifle" versions of machineguns have become popular substitutes among collectors: at least a 16" barrel and semi-automatic function only, with the design modified to not accept original internal parts.


    In the 1980s illegal machine guns were sold on the back row of the Tazwell Virginia flea market. Traditionally, illegal machineguns come into the US with illegal drugs through Florida from the Middle East or France, through the southern border from Mexico with illegal drugs. Or through West Coast ports from Asia destined for Mexico as "sewing machine parts" leaking out of the containers as bribes, etc. on the way south. Some illegal machineguns are undeclared war trophies from military veterans, others are confiscated criminal weapons sold by corrupt cops. White supremacist groups establish their own underground weapons factories. Criminals sometimes do conversions of semi-automatic firearms to full-auto, but in order to do that right, one would have the tools and the skill to make Sten guns or Mac 10s from scratch.

    There is little legal control over the illegal market. But the answer from politicians is always more restriction on the legal market.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2011
  5. docnyt

    docnyt Well-Known Member

    That's a broad but interesting research topic.

    I would recommend starting with the Gun Control Act which has been influential as far as how firearms are handled here. Also google Assault Weapons Ban - again another turning point.

    Then look into the BATFE which is the government body tasked with regulating firearms:

  6. Bif

    Bif Member

    Well, you need to register your full automatic weapons and pay a tax at least in the most liberal states ? There are not a state where automatic weapons are totally free ?
  7. docnyt

    docnyt Well-Known Member

    Paying the tax stamp is a federal requirement so all the individual states have to comply. There is not one state where you can just own one without paying the tax stamp if that is what you are asking.
  8. Bif

    Bif Member

    The "assault weapons" are only full automatic weapons or all military weapons including the semi automatic versions ?
  9. Bif

    Bif Member

    That is a very complex subject for me.
    But i understand you must to pay a tax to buy an automatic weapons at least in every states because it's a federal law.
    Well, which are the states where you just need to pay this tax to buy one, without registration or licence ? Maybe Alaska ?
  10. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Well-Known Member

    Even if the state does not regulate machineguns, the federal government does. Absence of state laws does not remove the necessity of complying with the federal machine gun regulations under the 1934 National Firearms Act, currently incorporated as Title II of the Gun Control Act (the 1968 Gun Control Act being Title I of the current Gun Control Act).

    Federal law is the supreme law of the land; state laws cannot supercede federal law: federal law supercedes all state laws, a principle known as federal supremacy.
  11. Bif

    Bif Member

    Ok, i see, the federal law consider a full automatic handgun as a machine gun ? What about the automatic pistols ? It's controled by the same laws than the automatic rifles and machine guns ?
  12. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Well-Known Member

    "Assault Weapon" is a political term that has lost any practical meaning. The New Jersey state Assault Weapons Ban labelled the Marlin Model 60 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlin_Model_60 ) an "assault weapon". The factory complied by shortening the magazine tube from 18 rounds to 14 rounds .

    Generally, to most speakers an "assault weapon" is a semi-automatic replica of a military assault rifle or submachinegun. They are actually less likely to be used in street crime (as opposed to film noire melodramas) than other weapons. In my hometown we have had far more assaults with knives or ball bats than with "assault weapons".

    The removal of the features banned during the 1994-2004 federal Assault Weapon Ban (bayonet lugs, pistol grips, folding stocks, etc) did not make the guns less deadly for criminal abuse, but did destroy their value as collectible representations of historic military firearms. That to me illustrates the purely symbolic nature of gun control.
  13. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Well-Known Member

    To the military or police, "automatic" implies full automatic or machine gun. Rat-a-tat-tat.

    To civilians, "automatic" implies semi-automatic gun. Bang, bang, bang.

    My AutoOrdnance .45 Automatic Pistol is technically semi-automatic only; since full automatic handguns are rare they are usually called machine pistols.

    The word "automatic" is used for two different things depending on audience.

    A true military assault rifle is select fire, capable of semi-automatic or full-automatic at user selection. The safety switch on the M16 is safe-single-full and on the AK47 is safe-full-single. My son's M4 carbine is semi-auto only unlike the M4 used by our friend Sgt. Jones in Afghanistan. My Kalashnikov is semi-automatic only in both the single and full positions on the selector lever. (The insurance at our rifle club will not allow the firing of full automatic weapons, even on semi-auto if select fire, even loading only one round in the magazine at a time.)
  14. Bif

    Bif Member

    Ok ! i thought the federal assault weapons ban was only against full automatic weapons.
    I would not to think that some semi automatic weapons would be prohibited in USA, it's incredible for me.
    But the federal assault weapons ban is the same in all american states ? Or each state can decide which weapons is concerned by this law ?
  15. gc70

    gc70 Well-Known Member

    There is no current federal assault weapons ban. The federal assault weapons ban of 1994 (AWB94) expired in 2004.

    AWB94 never applied to fully-automatic weapons. AWB94 only applied to semi-automatic weapons because:
    • AWB94 only applied to weapons made after September 13, 1994.
    • No new fully-automatic weapons could be registered under the National Firearms Act after May 19, 1986.
    Some states adopted state assault weapons bans similar to AWB94. Even though AWB94 expired at the national level, the state bans continue to exist.
  16. medalguy

    medalguy Well-Known Member

    Assault weapon ban regulated semi-automatic military style rifles that were considered "bad" by some liberal politicians. There was no direct connection with machine guns. The ban expired and is of no consequence today except for a few states which made parts of the ban into state laws regulating things like magazine capacity and whether the firearm could have a flashhider or vertical grip or folding stock. This still has no connection with federal machine gun laws.

    You asked about automatic pistols. Generally what we consider an automatic handgun is really a semiautomatic, such as the 1911 Colt pistol or Beretta 92 or Walther PP. The key is the government's definition of a machine gun: whether the weapon is capable of firing more than one shot with a single function of the trigger. In other words, pull the trigger and hold it back, and if the gun goes bang-bang-bang, then it's a machine gun. If it only fires one time and stops, it's a semi-automatic(or a revolver). This definition applies to pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
  17. armoredman

    armoredman Well-Known Member

    We have the overarching federal statute to follow, then states may make laws more restrictive than the fed.gov ones. For instance, some states, as mentioned, will not allow citizens to posess fully automatic firearms even if the citizen is in full compliance with NFA'34 and GCA'68. Also some local Chief Law Enforcement officers do not like machineguns, and will use their authority to stop anyone in their county from gaining an NFA registered firearm.
    My state, Arizona, says if you go through the federal maze, it's OK with us. Arizona also allows the carry of NFA firearms on the National Registry. :)
    It is impoirtant to re state what was said above - firearms that fire more than once per trigger pull are the ones in question, not semi-auto look alikes.
  18. Bif

    Bif Member

    Thanks of lot for these answers.
    For example, excepted in the states which has a state assault weapons ban, is it possible to buy a military rifle like a semi automatic Colt M4 by an american citizen ?
  19. Bif

    Bif Member

    Can i know which states prohibit the full automatic weapons currently ?
  20. jerkface11

    jerkface11 Well-Known Member

    Yeah you just have to go through a background check, give them your fingerprints, passport photos, pay them $200, and wait for them to approve it. Totally different from a license.

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