The Great Debate: are automatic and semi-automatic gun laws stri - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

The Great Debate: are automatic and semi-automatic gun laws strict enough?

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Photo credit: Cory Doctorow / CC BY-SA 2.0 Photo credit: Cory Doctorow / CC BY-SA 2.0

BY CASSIDY BELUS

INTERVIEW BY TARVARIOUS HAYWOOD

Emotions are high following the horrendous shooting in Las Vegas that claimed 59 lives and has left over 500 people injured. The shocking attack has thrown the gun law debate back in the forefront of American politics. 

One of the guns used in the massacre was a modified AR-15 rifle according to The Washington Post. This has sparked questions over how the shooter obtained his weapons and whether citizens should have access to semi-automatic and automatic firearms at all.

In the wake of the shooting, numerous petitions have sprung up online demanding stricter gun control laws.

Activist website CREDO called out Republicans in its petition saying “thoughts and prayers are not enough to keep weapons of war out of dangerous hands and begin to address our country’s horrific gun violence epidemic.”

On the other side of the argument are gun rights advocates who claim that tighter gun laws won’t help protect citizens.

James Mitchell, the owner of Mitchell Supply says that getting your hands on fully automatic firearms isn't easy. First, he says that these guns are expensive. Next, they’re tricky to obtain legally due to existing gun laws.

In Montana, it is legal to own a machine gun and gun owners are not required to obtain a permit to buy shotguns or rifles.

With regards to machine guns, the NRA sites the Montana law as:

“Possession or use of a machine gun in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of a crime of violence is punishable by not less than 20 years in prison.”

Smartgunlaws.org further explains machine gun laws saying:

“It is legal to possess a machine gun in Montana:

  • For a scientific purpose;
  • If the machine gun is not usable as a weapon and is possessed as a curiosity, ornament, or keepsake; or
  • For a purpose manifestly not aggressive or offensive.”

In Nevada, the scene of Sunday night’s mass shooting, machine guns are also legal.

Mitchell said if you want to get your hands on a fully automatic weapon, not only will it cost you, but the waiting period isn't just a 24-hour hold.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 regulates access to machine weapons and short-barrel firearms. Under the NFA, to own a Class III weapon you have to follow a handful of steps including having a clean record - no felonies, violent misdemeanors or dishonorable discharges - and calling your local chief law enforcement officer. (Full steps HERE).

To avoid the price and hassle of buying machine guns, people have found other ways to manipulate firearms to perform like fully automatic weapons. 

What the gunman in Vegas more than likely used, Mitchell guessed, is a method that he calls bump firing.

Bump firing is the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to fire shots in rapid succession, which simulates the feeling of a fully automatic firearm. 

To prevent any weapon from getting into the hands of the wrong person, Mitchell said that gun dealers have the right to deny sales to anyone if they seem mentally unstable.

Sometimes this method works and other times it fails.

In the case of the Orlando Night Club Shooting, the shooter was investigated by the FBI prior to his attack. When he committed the crime, at least two of the guns he bought were bought legally according to The New York Times.

READ: How Mass Shooters got their Guns

However, the shooter at Sandy Hook didn’t go through a dealer. He used the guns obtained legally by his mother. Other than her son, there wasn't a reason why she shouldn't have access to guns. 

This is one of the examples gun rights advocates point to, stating that shooters will find a way to get their hands on guns legally or illegally. The common argument from this side of the aisle is that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens would provide more protection.

Those for tighter gun laws argue that lax gun laws and more armed citizens would lead to increased chaos and violence.

Among the debate is two gun-related bills being reviewed

The House is expected to move forward with The Sportsman's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, which is intended to expand access and opportunities for hunting fishing and recreational shooting.

Opponents have raised concerns about the silencer measure in this bill.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act would allow qualified people to carry a concealed handgun into or possess a concealed handgun in another state that allows residents to carry concealed firearms.

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