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Low-Quality CNN News Blunders. Part 2
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Low-Quality CNN News Blunders. Part 2


WASHINGTON – March 21, 2019

CNN's Don Lemon released a piece that automatic weapons are easy to get.

The story began on August 20, 2014 when Lemon, broadcasting live from Ferguson, Missouri said he supported the Second Amendment but that he doubted the Founding Fathers were thinking about automatic weapons when they wrote it. The conversation was with conservative radio host Ben Ferguson.

"Let’s deal with the facts here," Ferguson said. "A semi-automatic weapon is a gun that you or I is allowed to own and in different places they have different rules. But to imply that anyone can just go out and buy an automatic weapon is just not true, Don."

"What do you mean?" Lemon said. "During the theater shooting in Colorado, I was able to go and buy an automatic weapon, and I maybe have shot a gun three, four times in my life. I don’t live in Colorado. I think most people can go out and buy an automatic weapon."

The first thing to note is that Lemon bought a weapon during a shooting in Colorado when people died and when the situation was really acute. Second, let's remember there are laws on the storage, carrying, and use of weapons in the United States.

The gun Lemon bought in Colorado was an AR-15. The Bushmaster Company that sold it described it as a semi-automatic. Here you need to understand the difference between semi-automatic and fully-automatic guns: While a semi-automatic gun shoots a single bullet with a single pull of the trigger, a fully-automatic firearm shoots multiple, repeated rounds with a single trigger squeeze.

Getty Images/PrtSc

But it seems Lemon know this fact.

"An automatic weapon is something that you can shoot off a number of rounds very quickly," Lemon said.

That is not the legal definition of an automatic weapon, but this debate pulls back the curtain on a couple of wrinkles in what federal law says and does not say. For starters, the law fails to define the term "automatic."

In addition, for instance, while a brand new semi-automatic AR-15 can cost as little as $450, fully-automatic weapon cost tens of thousands of dollars regardless of their condition. At the Weekly Standard, Lowe writes that the guns can cost upwards of $20,000.

What’s the Difference?

First of all, it should be noted that according to the Reagan-signed Firearm Owners Protection Act, the sale of fully-automatic firearms manufactured before 1986 is illegal. At the same time, owning the guns is still legal.

Any gun for sale must have been manufactured after 1986 and must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Records database.

Before that the 1968 Gun Control Act defined a semi-automatic as "any repeating rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge."

The key part there is the “separate pull of the trigger.” One pull = one shot.

The law speaks clearly about what it means by the term “semi-automatic.” When it comes to the term "automatic," a little inference is required.

The 1934 National Firearms Act defined a machine gun as “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

Note the part about more than one shot by “a single function of the trigger.” One pull = many shots.

That’s the legal difference between a semi-automatic and a fully automatic weapon.

The AR-15 that Lemon bought was a semi-automatic. People can go out and buy such guns at many stores across the country. Buying a fully automatic gun is a very different and more restricted process, which we’ll get into in just a bit.

But it’s interesting that while the legal definition of a machine gun talks about firing automatically, there is no definition of an automatic weapon as such.

As for getting one, back in the 1930's machine guns, big belt-fed machines like those fired in the First World War, could be ordered through the mail. That's not possible today. Anyone who wants to own a fully-automatic weapon must find a dealer who possesses not only a Federal Firearms License, they have to find a dealer who has gone through additional background checks and who pays increased licensing fees.

“These dealers are referred to as FFL/SOT (special occupational tax) or Class 3 FFL dealers,” Davis explains over at the Federalist. “It is a lengthy and burdensome process that requires extensive investigation by ATF.”

In addition, according to Reagan's Act, any gun for sale must have been manufactured before 1986 and must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Records database. Today the process is more difficult.

The Bureau itself adds "no one could point to legal language, court ruling or federal rule that makes a machine gun interchangeable with an automatic, even though in a practical sense, they are."

“Yes, you can buy a machine gun,” Bureau representatives also said.

A lawyer and firearms expert based in Lansing, Michigan, Steven Howard said the ban on machine guns is not quite as complete as Ferguson’s words about how it’s impossible to own fully automatic weapons might sound.

"Most people can buy machine guns in lots of states," Howard said. "But, and this is one of those classic big ‘buts,’ they have to get through a background check by FBI that is as thorough as if you are getting clearance to become a federal agent."

Howard also said those checks can take up to six months. In fact, it can be from nine months to a full year. The good folks at the ATF take their time because they make certain that applicants dot their I's and cross their T's and are considered safe and responsible to own the fully automatic firearm.

States such as California, Iowa, and Kansas ban private ownership under any circumstances. But in about half the country, including Florida and Texas, if you pay the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms $200 [tax] and register an application with the federal government, you can get yourself a machine gun legally.

Getty Images/PrtSc

That means filling out a 12-page application, submitting fingerprints, and sending photos to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

You also need to have a clean record free of any history of domestic violence or felony convictions.

There are other rules for carrying a weapon with or without license:

  1. Must be at least 18 years old
  2. Must be a citizen of the United States
  3. Must be a resident of Indiana for a lifetime license – (non-residents can get the 4 year license)
  4. Is a proper person IC35-47-1-7

“Proper person” means a person who:

  • does not have a conviction for resisting law enforcement under IC 35-44.1-3-1 within five (5) years before the person applies for a license or permit under this chapter;
  • does not have a conviction for a crime for which the person could have been sentenced for more than one (1) year;
  • does not have a conviction for a crime of domestic violence – Indiana Code 2015 (as defined in IC 35-31.5-2-78), unless a court has restored the person’s right to possess a firearm under IC 35-47-4-7;
  • is not prohibited by a court order from possessing a handgun;
  • does not have a record of being an alcohol or drug abuser;
  • does not have documented evidence which would give rise to a reasonable belief that the person has a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct;
  • does not make a false statement of material fact on the persons application;
  • does not have a conviction for any crime involving an inability to safely handle a handgun;
  • does not have a conviction for violation of the provisions of this article within five (5) years of the person’s application;
  • does not have an adjudication as a delinquent child for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, if the person applying for a license or permit under this chapter is less than twenty-three (23) years of age;
  • has not been involuntarily committed, other than a temporary commitment for observation or evaluation, to a mental institution by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority;
  • has not been the subject of a:

(A) ninety (90) day commitment as a result of proceeding under IC 12-26-6; or

(B) regular commitment under IC 12-26-7; or

has not been found by a court to be mentally incompetent, including being found:

(A) not guilty by reason of insanity;

(B) guilty but mentally ill; or

(C) incompetent to stand trial.

As you can see, there are two important problems if you want to buy weapons. The first is difficult, the second is expensive. The CNN reporter’s words could be blown to smithereens. Maybe Lemon could study the laws and their features in his country before conducting such conversations live.

Author: USA Really