The hapless hacks at Media Matters, with an unfortunate assist from Cliff May right here on the Corner, are off the races on my recent post about machineguns. Here’s Media Matters:
Mirroring common gun lobby talking points Williamson notes that “fully automatic” guns are highly restricted and regulated. Williamson’s account is in fact a highly misleading characterization of the accessibility of fully automatic weapons. The reality is that semi-automatic rifles, such as AK-47s or AR-15s, are widely available and sold at gun shows from private sellers that do not run background checks. Further conversion kits that make these rifles indistinguishable from machine guns are also widely available at gun shows.
Here are the facts: Conversion kits making semiautomatic weapons fully automatic are illegal to buy, sell, or possess, unless one has a federal license for possessing fully automatic weapons (and not always then, either). Under federal law, a machinegun conversion kit is precisely the same thing as a machinegun. It is illegal to possess the parts to perform such a conversion, even if the conversion hasn’t been done — if you own the parts, you own the gun, so far as ATF is concerned. It is illegal to attempt to purchase those parts. It is illegal to offer to sell those parts. It is illegal to move those parts across state lines. If such things are being sold, at a gun show or anywhere else, then a crime is being committed.
But I doubt that they are commonly sold. If it is so common, why are arrests not being made? If this is true, shouldn’t we be investigating the ATF?
The Media Matters hack says that such kits are widely available online and then provides a link. Perhaps he was assuming that his drooling and contemptible readers would not follow it: The link he provides is not a link to conversion kits for sale; rather, it is to a collection of how-to articles. There is a difference between selling a book about conversions and selling the parts necessary to perform them. (Guns attract myths like few other tools; suffice it to say you can’t make an Uzi out of granddad’s squirrel rifle and a twist-tie.) Depending on your view of the First Amendment, the government may or may not be permitted to suppress such information. But in either case, a manual for performing a conversion is no more a conversion kit than a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook is a bomb or a Julia Child tome is a soufflé. You need the parts. But Media Matters deals in distortions and half-truths, because that is what they are paid to do.
#more#Here’s what ATF says:
Machinegun conversion kits are within the definition of “machinegun” for purposes of the GCA and are, therefore, subject to all GCA controls imposed upon “machineguns”. For GCA purposes, the definition of “machinegun” in 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(23) incorporates the definition of such term in the National Firearms Act, 26 U.S.C. section 5845(b). As defined by section 5845(b), “machinegun” means, among other things, “any . . . combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun”, i.e., a machinegun conversion kit. Thus, under the GCA, a machinegun conversion kit is, for example, a machinegun subject to the prohibition with respect to possession and transfer of machineguns in 18 U.S.C. section 922(o) and the prohibition in 18 U.S.C. section (a)(4) against transporting machineguns interstate without the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Hapless Hack also cites a GAO study in which investigators found that they could locate all of the parts necessary to convert a semiautomatic AR-15 into a fully automatic rifle at gun shows. This is true, and disturbing: The report, dating from the 1990s, was part of a GAO study of people trafficking in stolen U.S. military hardware. You know what we already have lots of laws against? Theft. (“Thou shalt not steal.” Familiar?) We have all sorts of interesting and involved laws against stealing armaments from the U.S. military. If such things are being stolen and sold — and, again, I doubt that this remains true, all these years afterward — then a crime is being committed, and the criminals should be prosecuted. I’m pretty sure my buddies at the NRA are 100 percent in favor of locking up people who hijack weapons from the U.S. military and sell them on the black market. If our military and our law-enforcement agencies are too lazy or feckless to stop the open trafficking in stolen military hardware, then what exactly is the point of passing another set of laws targeting, by definition, the law-abiding?
The point is this: These things already are crimes. Contrary to Azzam al-Berkeley, Mayor Bloomberg, and the New York Daily News, it is illegal to trade in fully automatic weapons without a Class 3 firearms-dealer’s license or a hard-to-get federal permit covering a very small number of weapons registered with the federal government before 1986. The conversion kits that Cliff and Hapless Hack talk up are illegal. Selling somebody the parts to perform a conversion is illegal. Having the parts is illegal. Maybe we should make them double-secret illegal, I don’t know.
All of which is rather beside the point. As I documented, fully automatic weapons legally owned by civilians are hardly ever used in violent crimes: one homicide since 1934. (If the NFL or Congress were as law-abiding as American machinegun-owners, the world would be a very different place.) In general, the sort of exotic weapons that the gun-grabbers fuss over are seldom used in crimes — mainly because they are very expensive and not terribly convenient. A few years back, there was a pretty good panic over .50-caliber rifles, but nobody knocks over a liquor store with a Barrett .50: It weighs 30 pounds, it’s five feet long, and it costs about ten grand.
So, Hapless Hack, Cliff, Nurse Bloomberg, et al., a word of advice: Any time you find yourself citing al-Qaeda propaganda as a source, do a little fact-checking.