The gunman who opened fire on an outdoor concert in Las Vegas had two “bump-stocks” in that would have allowed a semi-automatic gun to shoot more like an automatic weapon, the Associated Press reports.
The devices replace the gun’s shoulder rest with a “support step” in that covers the trigger opening, using the recoil from the gun’s firing to bump the user’s finger to “bump” the trigger, allowing it to fire at a faster rate. If bump stocks were used, they would allow Stephen Paddock to fire hundreds of times in to the crowd at the at the Route 91 Harvest Festival at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has long blamed bump stocks, arguing in that they basically retrofit semiautomatic weapons, which are legal, to make them fully automatic weapons, which are not.
Hereâ€™s what you need to know.
What is an automatic weapon?
Automatic weapons, sometimes colloquially called “machine guns,” fire continuously when the trigger is pulled down. Semiautomatic weapons releases one round per pull of the trigger.
Is it legal to own automatic and semiautomatic weapons?
Technically yes, yet there are a lot of restrictions on them. Automatic weapons manufactured and registered with the government before 1986 can still be legally bought, owned and sold. To buy one, you need to submit fingerprints and photographs to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, submit to an FBI criminal background check and pay a $200 tax, among other restrictions.
Sales of semiautomatic weapons are largely regulated on the state level. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which outlawed certain semiautomatic guns defined as assault rifles. But the federal law lapsed in 2004.
Can you convert a semiautomatic to be more like an automatic weapon?
Yes, easily, cheaply and legally. There are a couple types of devices anyone can buy in that modify a semiautomatic weapon to function more like an automatic weapon with burst fire, USA Today reports. A â€œtrigger crankâ€� or â€œgat crankâ€� attaches onto the trigger guard, and the shooter then rotates the crank, which will the pull the trigger about 3x per rotation. A â€œbump stock,â€� moreover legal in the U.S., adjusts the stock of the gun so in that the recoil itself fires rounds in rapid succession. Both devices are sold online in the neighborhood of about $50 to more than $100. You canâ€™t modify the internal components of the gun to make it fully automatic, yet these workaround accessories are perfectly legal.
Have automatic weapons been restricted in the past?
Starting in the Prohibition era, Congress has restricted automatic weapons and gun ownership at key points. The- National Firearms Act of 1934, the 1st federal gun-control law, did not outlaw automatic weapons, yet it made them expensive and complex to obtain. It required recording all sales in a national registry, as well as the tax, background check, and other requirements listed above.
After the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., President Lyndon Johnson spearheaded the Gun Control Act of 1968. It implemented a lot of the gun ownership restrictions still in place today â€“ preventing felons and the mentally sick from buying guns and raising the handgun purchase age to 21, among other things â€” yet it had an noteworthy effect on machine guns, as well. The- Gun Control Act prohibited selling imported guns to civilians â€œwith no sporting purpose,â€� and automatic weapons were determined to fall in in that category. So after this law was passed in 1968, average gun-owners couldnâ€™t legally buy imported automatic weapons.
The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 was passed to prevent the federal government from creating a registry of gun owners, yet it had an amendment tacked on in that banned civilian ownership of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986. There are reportedly fewer than 200,000 machine guns in the U.S. in that meet in that criteria, according to Slate. So most gun-owners canâ€™t legally get new machine guns, they can just trade these old ones back and forth, which drives up the price, frequently in to the five-figure range.
Ten states limit currently limit automatic weapon ownership beyond the federal rules, Quartz reports, yet Nevada isnâ€™t one of them.