Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin incorrectly referred to semi-automatic AR-15 rifles as a “high-capacity automatic weapon” on Monday in voicing his support for restrictions on the weapons.
Manchin told CNN’s Manu Raju, “I never thought I had a need for that type of a high-capacity automatic weapon. I like to shoot, I like to go out and hunt. I like to go out sport shooting. I do all of that. But I’ve never felt I needed something of that magnitude.”
It is unclear if Manchin calling the AR-15 an “automatic weapon” was intentional or a mistake. He nor his office had not appeared to issue a correction as of Monday afternoon.
A fully automatic weapon – also known as a machine gun – is 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.” Automatic weapons are already banned for the general public, though citizens can own the weapons only after undergoing a lengthy and expensive application and transfer process in accordance with federal law.
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. A $200 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) transfer tax is also required.
This strict 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.
Manchin also said on Monday that it “makes sense” to raise the age limit for rifle purchases from 18 to 21. Such a law, he said, would’ve prevented the massacre in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead at the hands of an 18-year-old with a rifle.
“We know we can do something that would have prevented this. Raising the age, making sure that the age at least gives us a chance to work with that person, see and evaluate if they have a little maturity to them,” Manchin said.
Manchin also said that “red flag” gun confiscation laws – which allows law enforcement or family members to petition a judge to remove a person’s guns if deemed a threat to themselves or others – would’ve prevented the massacre. However, reports haven’t shown that the 18-year-old gunman displayed threatening behavior before the shooting.
Manchin noted he’d be open to supporting a ban on “assault weapons” but would need to see the legislation before fully committing to it.
“It depends on what they, how they would approach it,” Manchin said. “I’m open to anything that makes gun sense.”