The Question of Machine Guns

Firearms and Freedom looks at the question of whether Heller closes the door to machine gun rights, and concludes it probably does.  I think both sides of the machine gun issue can find support for their arguments in Heller, but I agree with Peter that the federal regulations on machine guns are probably largely safe.  That’s not to say that I believe there’s not room for litigation on the issue, but I would consider us to be very lucky if we could even get the federal courts to rule unconstitutional the Hughes Amendment to the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, which banned any new machine guns from being registered for civilian use.

11 thoughts on “The Question of Machine Guns”

  1. I understand that Heller expressly allows the MG ban, but I simply cannot accept the logic that 30 rounds of 7.62×39 fired wildly on full-auto is more dangerous than 30 rounds of aimed 7.62×39 on semi-auto.

    PS. Did anyone mention the Puckle gun to Scalia?

  2. False dichotomy above;
    What about 30 rounds of well-aimed 7.62×39 on full auto?

    (caveat: I support MG rights under 2A, I’m just examining the logic here)

    It’s the reason the US military uses M-16s and not AR-15s. Probably also why the Soviets transitioned from the semiauto-only SKS to the AK-47.

    (though admittedly the military did change the M-16 to fire 3 round burst on selective fire only, and took away the full auto option because the Vietnam experience tended to show troops wasted more ammo that way.)

  3. where did Heller expressly allow the machine gun ban?? It allows regulation of guns (including machine guns) but certainly didn’t “expressly allow” a machine gun ban.

  4. My understanding is that the SKS was a stop-gap measure (or a backup in case the AK-47 failed).

  5. I believe that Scalia erred in citing particular weapons when the Founders stuck with the more generic ‘Arms’. As a legal issue, I don’t think it will fly right now, but if there is some sort of police assault on a group that cannot be easily marginalized (Branch Davidians, FLDS, so-called survivalists), then the Supremes might have no other choice but to heed an angry populace.

    My impression was that they admitted to the least that they felt they had to, but beyond that, they are members of Government and are mostly concerned with maintaining their positions.

  6. Sorry I’m too tired to type a long reply. I just want to say that accepting the MG ban is accepting the “bad gun” argument, to steal from McCain.

  7. The SKS was invented 3 or 4 years before the AK-47. I seem to remember reading that Simonov was pissed about the obvious similarities between the gas system on the SKS and the later AK.
    Personally, I like the SKS better. It’s damn near impossible to fire “well-aimed 7.62 x 39 on full auto”.

  8. Keep in mind that it has only been challenged in one appeals court district. The field to beat it is wide open.

  9. On the face of it, the machine gun ban looks secure under Heller. And practically, even Scalia seems personally skeptical of legal machine guns. I still hope to see them legalized in my lifetime, and I see two long term possibilities. One would be explicitly political, getting Congress to repeal the relevant laws in reverse order. This would require continuing advances in getting people into the shooting culture to such a degree that machine guns became mainstream. The other would be continuing legal and historical groundwork of the kind going on for the last twenty years that set up the win in DC vs Heller. Even though Heller alone throws machine guns under the bus, there’s a legitimate argument that the only reason machine guns aren’t in common use is federal regulation. I don’t think the courts are ready to hear that now, but with the right moves on our side it could happen.

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