On November 28, author Stephen King responded to the Planned Parenthood shooting by suggesting the gunman used “automatic weapons.”
Moreover, he suggested attacks with “automatic weapons” will continue until the NRA allows the passage of more gun control.
King’s exact tweet: “No one wants to ban private gun ownership, but the automatic weapons murders will continue until the NRA agrees to reasonable controls.”
It is interesting to note that ownership of machine guns–fully automatic weapons–is highly regulated in the U.S. All machine guns have to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and require an extensive background check and the payment of federal fees to own. Moreover, there are only a limited number of machine guns available to private citizens and that drives the price for such a weapon up to about $6,000 or $7,000 on the low end. Many machine guns cost $20,000 or far more.
Such weapons are simply not used in crime or purchased by people who tend toward crime.
NBC News reports that Colorado Springs gunman used an “AK-47 style” firearm, which is similar to an AR-15 inasmuch as it is a semi-automatic firearm. A semi-automatic fires one bullet every time the trigger is pulled, whereas an automatic weapon fires repeatedly once the trigger is suppressed.
High profile gunmen use a variety of weapons; these weapons include handguns (Tucson, January 2011), shotguns (DC Navy Yard, September 2013), lever action rifles (Ottawa, October 2014), or rifles like an AK-47 (Colorado Springs, November 2015) or AR-15 (Aurora, July 2012). None of these are automatic. The handguns, AKs, and ARs are semi-automatic and the lever action rifle has to be cocked after each round is fired. A shotgun can be semi-automatic, but the most popular is a pump, which requires the gun owner to work the action by pumping it between every shot.
Is it possible to turn a semi-automatic rifle into a full auto? Yes it is, with the right knowledge and mechanical ability. But that knowledge and ability have to be coupled with a willingness to break current gun control laws in ways risk high financial penalties, forfeiture of guns owned, a lifetime loss of gun ownership rights, and prison time.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.