Slate Takes Shots at Machine Gun Enthusiasts

Slate Takes Shots at Machine Gun Enthusiasts

In March, Slate magazine covered the Big Sandy Shoot in Arizona–a shoot where 600 spectators gather to watch 200 shooters fire “three million rounds of ammunition” with machine guns (fully automatic firearms) at various targets. Although it was a three day event in which gun owners from all over the country peaceably converged to enjoy their hobby, swap stories, and admire weaponry from wars like Vietnam and World War II, Slate’s overarching message was that we need more gun control.

In fact, Slate’s Terry Greene Sterling took time throughout the article to remind readers of how much support there was for universal background checks and, of course, to paint the AR-15 as a killing machine–although it is a semi-automatic firearm, not a machine gun. 

It seems someone had brought a lowly semi-automatic to the machine gun shoot, so Sterling took time out to mention that “the AR-15 was one of the guns allegedly used by James Holmes to mow down people in a Colorado movie theater.”

But Sterling’s overarching theme was to focus on just how regulated machine guns are in this country. Although they are legal to own–approximately 37 states allow the ownership of machine guns–they are heavily regulated and require an extension registration and acquisition process. This process includes the same FBI background check all gun purchasers go through when buying a revolver or semi-automatic from a store, plus the addition of paperwork with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF). And of course, extra fees (so the federal government gets their share).

The other catch with machine guns is that there is a finite number of them available–only ones which were already in circulation by 1986 are legal to own. This means the government knows where every machine gun is at every minute of every day via registration. It also means the price for a machine gun is so high that purchasing one is out of the reach of many Americans. 

For example, while there are exceptions, anyone thinking about buying a machine gun has to be ready to spend $9,000 to $25,000, and in some cases much, much more to acquire the firearm they want. 

These excruciatingly high prices are the fruit of government regulation. And it’s part of what every gun owner–whether he or she owns a revolver or an AR-15–would experience if all guns were treated like machine guns.

Nonetheless, early in the article Sterling writes,”The Big Sandy Shoot attracts hundreds of people who chafe at gun control yet seem inordinately proud that they have passed background checks that allow them to own a machine gun.” So their point is that all guns should be as rigorously regulated as machine guns?

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