Full Auto Day – The Hughes Amendment

This will be the concluding post for Full Auto Day. If there’s one thing that I’ve tried to feature in this series, it’s ordinary people having fun shooting machine guns and assault rifles, as happens in various locations around the United States every year. Why does anyone need a machine gun? Because machine guns are really friggin fun! I’ve never seen anyone who wasn’t intrinsically hoplophobic, or recoil shy, shoot a machine gun and not walk away with a big shit eating grin on their face. I’ve shot my friend Jason’s M11 dozens of times, and I still get a big smile on my face every time I send a mag full of 9mm downrange. When I first tried a suppressed H&K MP5 submachine gun, I briefly for a moment considered whether it might be a good idea to sell my car to buy one. Unfortunately, the MP5 wouldn’t be very good at getting me to work, so that idea was quickly abandoned.

So that brings me to the reason that machine gun shooting is becoming increasingly the domain of the privileged few because of the stratospheric prices on registered machine guns.; Congressman William J. Hughes, who, as I nicely added to his Wikipedia Entry, is responsible for banning civilian possession of machine guns not already lawfully registered prior to May 19, 1986, despite there being virtually no history of crime being committed with legally owned machine guns in the United States. Why’d he do it? Because he’s another gun hating asshole from New Jersey (I hope he googles his name and manages to read that too). If you want to see more information, take a look at Dave Hardy’s 1986 Cumberland Law Review article about the FOPA, or Gun Law News’ summary of the FOPA.

Because I’m really wanting to have way more full auto fun than I can currently have, I’m quite eager to be rid of the Hughes Amendment. Unfortunately, the NRA has largely given up on machine guns. As much as I wish they didn’t, the sad truth is current political climate isn’t conductive to accomplishing anything on this ground. Over the next few years we’ll be lucky just to fight off more semi-auto bans. We’re also probably not going to have much luck in the courts in this regard either. So what to do? Well, we have to keep chipping away bit by bit, until we change the political climate to the point where it’s feasible to get rid of it. In the mean time, I think it’s important that we figure out ways to present machine gun ownership and shooting in a positive light to the general public.

But if the Democrats want a fight, we can always do to them what they did to us. If those slippery bastards try to close the “gun show loophole” or other such crap, why not slip a repeal of the Hughes Amendment in right before debate closes, and pass it on a questionable voice vote. It’s a little low, sure, but what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you can’t defeat a bill, adding a little “f*ck you” amendment is always a nice touch.

Well, I hope everyone liked today’s Full Auto Day. I’ll maybe do special interest features like this in the future. Stay tuned!

13 thoughts on “Full Auto Day – The Hughes Amendment”

  1. Nice post. Even here in Mass I can enjoy full auto shooting and can also have suppressors as long as I have the 07 FFL and tax stamp. If the Hughes amendment were to go away, It would be great for new machine gunners but would also be a disaster for others whose collection of title 2 firearms would soon be devalued by 90%. What do others think? Jack

  2. I can’t speak for every MG collector, but most of the ones I’d talk to would gladly take the hit if it meant they could collect more fun stuff. I’m sure there are some out there who get into MG collecting for the money, but I think most of them just really love shooting machine guns.

  3. To be honest, I’d way rather see deregulation of sound suppressors than tossing the Hughes amendment.

  4. I agree with Sebastian. Most of the collectors I know are principled enough to accept the financial losses in exchange for more freedom.

  5. There is a full auto fight going through court right now. Google “Hollis Wayne Fincher” he needs our support.

  6. I am sympathetic to Mr. Fincher, but this isn’t the right approach. When the courts haven’t even definitavely ruled that the second amendment protects an individual right, going to The Court with a machine gun case could turn into a major disaster for our gun rights. The 8th circuit that Mr. Fincher is going to be appealing is uses the collective rights model as the controlling law. Overcoming that is going to be next to impossible, and is just going to add precident in the courts that reenforces this flawed model. I wrote more about this here.

    Sadly we’re going to have to tackle this in the political arena for now. I will be writing sometime later on what an effective court strategy might look like.


    I agree with you about suppresssors. If we could get that done I’d be totally for it. But that and the machine gun issue are major uphill battles. But I can still register a new suppressor, so to me that’s less of a burden. I take outright bans more seriously than having to jump through hoops, but regulating suppressors was always kind of silly, given the ease for criminals who are so inclined to just make them.

  7. Oh Sebastian, you suggested something I have advocated for years. Once I found out how dirty Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) played back in 1986 by suddenly shutting off debate on the Hughes Amendment and passing it by an unrecorded voice vote, I have felt that the nicest thing the gun community could do was get a Member of Congress to pull the exact same stunt on the opposition.

    A last-minute amendment repealing the Hughes Amendment, dropped in the middle of the night on a germaine bill, and approved by voice vote without debate would be sweet revenge indeed for the crap they pulled on us 21 years ago.

    Especially so since Mr. Rangel is still there…snicker. He can watch what he sowed…

  8. The pre-1934 and 1986 days are gone. It will come to a point that machineguns are either no longer availible or out right banned. The NRA our supposive heavy hitter is nowhere to be found on this issue. The best we can hope for is better CCW rights and to maintain the right to have semi autos. But even that I predict will come under serious attacks.

  9. I do hope that when Mr. Hughes kicks the bucket he enjoys a long wait in hell while looking forward to an a** kicking by yours truly. This little amendment has been a knife between my ribs for quite a long time. I find it quite interesting seeing as to how it isn’t a ban, yet at the same time it is.

  10. Just for the record. I am usually a nice person. Unless you tamper with the only reason I wake up every morning.

  11. Totally! There’s no excuse for the Hughes Amendment AT ALL, and full auto weapons are pretty fun!

    I like this article btw, so I saved it to my links.

  12. I am 100% in favor of repealing the Hughes amendment. It was passed using trickery at best, and complete fraud at worst. After all that, all it has accomplished was to cut us off from buying newly manufactured full auto guns manufactured after 1986 which cut off new supply causing prices to soar out of the reach of the average citizen. Now only the evil “rich people” that Liberals love to hate so much can afford them. Why exactly would liberals want to prevent the average citizen from being able to afford full auto rifles when their largest support base are made up of people who fall for the empty promises of free health care, food, & shelter? Perhaps Hughes had just purchased a stockpile of pre 1986 full auto rifles for himself that he has since sold for a handsome profit after he caused the prices to skyrocket.

    The amendment has not had any effect on crime whatsoever since even when the ban was enacted there was not a full auto crime problem. Now only the rich & the criminals are allowed to have full auto weapons. Criminals can obviously still afford to buy illegal full autos on the black market that were manufactured after 1986 for the military or in other countries (therefor at far cheaper prices than the limited supply of pre-1986 rifles that the rest of us are allowed to buy). Law abiding citizens are cut off from the inexpensive illegal black market newly manufactured guns but criminals are not.

    As always, since it is now a crime to own full auto rifles that were made after 1986, only the criminals have them.

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