In an October 4 report, CBS News claims that Las Vegas attacker Stephen Paddock had AR-15s that fired “automatic rounds.”
The report begins with this paragraph:
Machine guns— weapons that fire multiple shot with one pull of the trigger—have been technically illegal since the mid-1980s. Yet while the guns that Stephen Paddock used to shoot more than 500 people in Las Vegas fired automatic rounds, they were perfectly legal, according to rules established by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Two comments are necessary on this paragraph. The first point is that machine guns have not “technically been illegal since the mid-1980s.” Rather, their sale has been regulated in a way that prevents private ownership of any machine gun made after 1986. If you come across a transferable pre-1986 machine gun and you have no criminal record it most certainly is legal for you to buy it, barring any state-level prohibition. (The process of buying it takes about eight to nine months and is extremely cumbersome, but it is legal.)
The second point is more of a question; namely, what are “automatic rounds?” Do “automatic rounds” come in a special box with clear markings or is this a phrase that gun controllers use to try to make AR-15s with bump-stocks sound as ominous as possible?
The use of “automatic rounds” becomes even more puzzling when the same CBS News report says ATF does not consider bump stocks “to have turned [AR-15s] into machine guns in the legal sense.” As Rick Vasquez, former acting chief of the Firearms Technology Branch of the ATF, told USA Today, a bump-stock is legal because it is “an accessory, not a conversion device.”
So the bump stock is legal, is ATF-approved, and it does not turn AR-15s into “machine guns.” Yet the CBS News report opened with references to “automatic rounds” and wound down by suggesting bump stock devices are on the market because they “slipped through the legal cracks.”
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.