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AR moves to lift machine gun ban

Airman 1st Class Kaylon Thomas fires at a target with an M249 squad automatic weapon during a machine gun qualification at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 10, 2018. Thomas is a security forces officer assigned to the 673rd Security Forces Squadron. (Justin Connaher/U.S. Air Force)
April 01, 2019

The ban on machine guns and sawed-off shotguns could soon be lifted in Arkansas as state House legislators passed a bill to do just that.

The Arkansas House voted an overwhelming 72 to 14 on Wednesday to pass House Bill 1820 that would end the state’s ban on machine guns and sawed-off or short-barrel shotguns, both of which are already regulated by federal law, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Justin Gonzales, who said that the state law was unnecessary.

“Everything in this bill is highly regulated by federal law. There’s no reason to have it in state law,” Gonzales said.

Federal law permits citizens to undergo a lengthy and expensive application process to possess machine guns.

However, even if a collector possesses such federal permits, owning those types of firearms is still against Arkansas law under current legislation.

The bill simply strikes through any mention of machine gun, sawed-off shotgun or rifle, and suppressed guns, and adds a clause that reads, “This section does not apply if the person uses, possesses, makes, … repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in an item described in this section that 2 is in compliance with the National Firearms Act.”

If Arkansas does remove the machine gun ban and defers to the federal regulations, it wouldn’t make it easier to acquire such weapons.

The National Firearms Act, originally enacted in 1934 and amended throughout the years, mandates guns and devices that citizens can own. The Gun Control Act of 1968 set specific definitions on regulated weapons.

U.S.C. Title 26 § 5845 specifically defines regulated shotguns as having “an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length.”

To legally own such a firearm in accordance with federal law, one must pay a $200 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) transfer tax and undergo a background check to acquire the tax-stamped permit necessary to own it.

Further, a machine gun is a fully automatic weapon defined as “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”

Machine gun manufacturing was banned by the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, though existing machine guns registered before the act were legal to own after acquiring a tax-stamped permit. Anything manufactured after that date can only be owned by the military, law enforcement or a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer.

However, this severe limitation on machine gun manufacturing has caused prices on pre-1986 machine guns to surge well above $10,000, making them unaffordable to the average American.