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NAT’L – OPINION – FACT: Machine Guns Aren’t Really Illegal, Just Highly Regulated

One of the common things heard after nearly every tragic mass shooting is that semi-automatic firearms –the AR-15 is often called out specifically – should be “banned” like machine guns. There is just one problem with that argument, machine guns aren’t actually illegal. While this article isn’t meant as legal advice, and one should always consult with local authorities, here are the quick facts on the legality of machine gun ownership. In 37 states it is possible to buy a machine gun today. However, it isn’t as easy as going to a local gun shop or even a gun show. Machine guns are legal at the federal level but highly regulated. This goes back to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), which was enacted as part of the Internal Revenue Code, and was the first federal regulation of the manufacture and transfer of firearms. The NFA restricted the sales, ownership, use, and transport of short-barreled rifles and shotguns, machine guns, silencers and suppressors and an all-encompassing “destructive device.” The latter included such things as modern artillery, rocket launchers, and military explosives. However, the law “restricts” but it does not “prohibit” and that is something that has been misunderstood and misreported for years. Items on the NFA list can still be owned. However, the items must be registered at the federal level, and this is a bit harder than it sounds. There is a common misconception that an individual must have a “Class III” license to own a machine gun. This is not true – but it also isn’t completely wrong, a point this author will get to.  [full article]

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