A Congresswoman from New York backpedaled rapidly from comments regarding how easy it is to get legal machine guns in the country.
Referencing Wednesday’s tragic mass killing in San Bernardino that left 14 dead, U.S. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, a Democrat who has represented Brooklyn in House since 2007, decried the public availability of machine guns in a statement on social media.
“In the United States, virtually anyone, anytime could purchase a machine gun without a background check. As a consequence of our lack of sensible gun control laws, we continue to experience these horrific acts of violence,” said Clarke.
“I am prepared to work with my colleagues, Republicans as well as Democrats, to create federal laws that will prevent these atrocities. We have a responsibility to the people who sent us to Congress to protect them from senseless violence,” she said.
This incited a torrent of comments from gun owners and Second Amendment advocates who flooded Clarke’s Facebook page with over 2,500 comments inside of an 18-hour period in an attempt to point out the complexities of gun laws in the country. Although the original post was changed to replace the word “machine gun” with “assault weapon,” doing so only seemed to pour gas on the commenters’ flames.
Automatic weapons, defined under the National Firearms Act of 1934 as any firearm capable of firing two or more shots with one pull of the trigger, have been tightly regulated for over 80 years. All legal machine guns must be registered and a tax of $200 paid for transfers approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Further, in 1986, the Hughes Amendment shut the door on civilian ownership of new made select-fire or otherwise full-auto firearms though registered “pre-1986” guns are still in circulation. Because of Hughes, transferrable NFA-registered automatic firearm prices have ballooned out of the reach of many gun owners who are otherwise willing to undergo the lengthy and expensive process to acquire them.
Although 543,000 guns capable of full-auto fire were listed in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record as of March 2015, many of these are in the hands of law enforcement agencies, Class III dealers who maintain samples for exhibition, and museums.
While the LA Times is reporting the killers in Wednesday’s fatal shootings used two legally owned semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles and two handguns, no mention of machine guns has been made.
In addition to federal laws, California has some of the most stringent gun controls of any state in the US, including mandatory registration requirements for “assault weapons.”