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Firearms Law: Fully Automatic Weapons


Like many people, you might think that fully automatic weapons are not legal in the United States. In fact, they are but a special permit, usually referred to as an “NFA permit” or a “tax stamp” is needed. Another term for this is a “Class 3” firearms license. 

Many people find this out and still don’t seek out fully automatic weapons. The reasons for this are usually that they think the process is extremely burdensome or that fully automatic weapons are just so expensive that going through the process isn’t really worth it. 

Neither of these objections are true, however. While it certainly is true that many people think the NFA Class 3 application is about as comfortable as a colonoscopy, thousands of Americans undergo the process every year and are enjoying their legal right to own fully automatic weapons. And while it’s certainly true that if you have your heart set on a Thompson or an M16 you should plan to pay a pretty penny, there are all kinds of weird, off-brand fully automatic weapons at significantly more modest price points. 

So what is the law about Class 3 weapons and how do you legally obtain them?

What Is The 1986 Gun Control Act?

It might shock you to learn that fully automatic weapons were completely legal until 1986. In fact, one of the more credible criticisms of President Ronald Reagan is that he signed into law this restriction on the Second Amendment. Indeed, if you watch the original Terminator movie, you can see Arnie walking into a pawn shop and buying fully automatic weapons as easily as a little 22 pea shooter. 

But Reagan shouldn’t quite be pilloried for this and some nuance and context is in order. Throughout the 70s and to a lesser extent the 1980s, the ATF was completely out of control, harassing law abiding gun owners for everything under the sun from interstate transport to buying ammunition through the mail.

The Gun Control Act of 1986 sought to curtail the activities of the ATF against law-abiding gun owners just minding their own business. American politics was much different then, with political party led by tough negotiators, but also men willing to compromise a little to get the better part of what they want. Thus did fully automatic weapons become a casualty of horse trading to get the ATF off the back of 99.99 percent of firearms owners. 

Now even if you believe any and all gun control laws are infringements, it’s important to see the upside of this: millions of gun owners buy firearms and ammunition through the mail. Very few own or even want to own a fully automatic firearm. So, all told, it was a decent trade – giving up a little for getting a lot. 

How To Get A Class 3 Weapons Permit

Getting a Class 3 Weapons permit isn’t as invasive or complicated as many people might think. In fact, if you’ve been holding off from getting a Class 3 permit because you think it’s going to be a giant headache… generally speaking it’s not. It’s just a few different hoops to jump through and then waiting to see if you get approved. 

First, you have to get an FFL. This might have you abandoning your plans already. But unless you plan on manufacturing, dealing or importing weapons, the cost of an FFL isn’t nearly as much as you think that it is.

Step two is simply paying your annual tax. Again, the cost of this isn’t negligible, but it’s not bank breaking either. 

It’s really that simple, it’s mostly about waiting for the approval. Most of what is required on the form isn’t significantly different from what you have to fill out when you purchase a handgun from a dealer anyway. 

Once you have the proper paperwork, you have a whole new world opened up to you. You can purchase fully automatic weapons for self-defense purposes or even as investments – like most scarce commodities, the value of these doesn’t look like it’s going down anytime soon. 

Do you own any fully automatic weapons? Do you think they should be easier to obtain? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Protect Your Second Amendment Rights: Oppose SB 1160 and SB 1253 in California


On Tuesday, April 2nd at 8:30am, the California Senate Public Safety Committee is slated to review two concerning bills that threaten the rights of firearm owners across the Golden State. As staunch advocates for the Second Amendment, it’s imperative for NRA Members and supporters of gun rights to take action. Senate Bill 1160 and Senate Bill 1253 pose significant threats, and it’s crucial to voice opposition to these proposed measures.

Senate Bill 1160: Annual Firearm Registration Requirement


Senate Bill 1160 represents a direct assault on the rights of law-abiding gun owners in California. This bill seeks to mandate an annual re-registration process for all firearms with the Department of Justice. If enacted, firearm owners would be compelled to navigate bureaucratic hurdles each year and pay undisclosed fees to maintain their registration status.

This onerous requirement not only burdens responsible gun owners with unnecessary red tape but also sets a dangerous precedent for government overreach into the fundamental rights protected by the Second Amendment. Under SB 1160, failure to comply with the annual registration mandate could result in severe penalties, including fines of up to $1000 and the potential confiscation of unregistered firearms.

Upholding Second Amendment Freedoms: Take Action Against SB 1160

It’s imperative for Second Amendment supporters to stand united against Senate Bill 1160. This legislation threatens the core principles of individual liberty and firearm ownership rights. We urge all concerned citizens to contact members of the Senate Public Safety Committee and vehemently oppose SB 1160.

Senate Bill 1253: Restricting Firearm Possession without Firearm Safety Card

Another concerning proposal slated for review is Senate Bill 1253, which seeks to further restrict firearm ownership rights in California. Under existing law, individuals are required to obtain a Firearm Safety Card to purchase or receive a firearm. However, SB 1253 aims to extend this requirement to possession, effectively prohibiting law-abiding citizens from possessing firearms without a valid Firearm Safety Card.

This additional hurdle not only imposes unnecessary burdens on responsible gun owners but also fails to address the root causes of crime and violence. Criminals, by definition, do not adhere to firearm laws, rendering such measures ineffective at curbing illicit gun activities. Instead, SB 1253 unfairly penalizes law-abiding citizens and undermines their ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Defending Second Amendment Liberties: Oppose SB 1253

Senate Bill 1253 represents yet another attempt to erode the Second Amendment freedoms of Californians. By imposing stringent requirements for firearm possession, this bill unfairly targets responsible gun owners while doing little to enhance public safety. It’s essential for proponents of gun rights to take a stand against SB 1253 and advocate for the preservation of constitutional liberties.

Take Action: Protect Second Amendment Rights in California


As the Senate Public Safety Committee prepares to review SB 1160 and SB 1253, it’s paramount for NRA Members and supporters of the Second Amendment to make their voices heard. Use the Take Action button below to contact committee members and urge them to oppose these egregious bills. Together, we can defend our cherished freedoms and safeguard the right to keep and bear arms in California.

Do you live in California? What do you do to oppose greater encroachment on your right to keep and bear arms? Leave your thoughts in the comments

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Mack W. Gwinn Jr.: A Tribute to a Firearms Pioneer


Mack W. Gwinn Jr., a visionary in the firearms industry, passed away on March 11, 2024, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and dedication to his craft. Born in Florida, Gwinn’s journey into the world of firearms began with his service in the U.S. Army Special Forces, where he earned several Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star during seven deployments to Vietnam.

From Military Service to Firearms Innovation

Following his military service, Gwinn transitioned into the firearms industry, where he made significant contributions. One of his notable achievements was acquiring the rights to the Colt IMP-221, a stockless, gas-operated bullpup pistol initially developed for aircrew survival in the U.S. Air Force. Redesigning the concept to accept the 5.56 NATO caliber and standard AR magazines, Gwinn founded Gwinn Arms and introduced the Bushmaster Arm Pistol in the early 1970s.

Pioneering Personal Defense Weapons

The Bushmaster Arm Pistol, an innovative pistol-sized firearm utilizing an intermediate round, predated the concept of personal defense weapons (PDWs) by a generation. Although not a commercial blockbuster, the Arm Pistol laid the foundation for Bushmaster Firearms and left an indelible mark on the industry.

Legacy of Innovation

Beyond the Bushmaster Arm Pistol, Gwinn’s influence extended to various other firearms projects and inventions. He held patents for extended capacity magazines and developed concepts for firearms applications ranging from target pistols to recoil reduction systems. His ingenuity and curiosity led him to explore diverse projects, including vehicle design and accessory development.

Remembering a Trailblazer

Mack W. Gwinn Jr.’s passing marks the end of an era in the firearms community. His contributions to the industry will be remembered for years to come, serving as inspiration for future generations of innovators. In honoring his memory, donations can be made to the Maine Veterans Project, and condolences may be expressed to his family at BrookingsSmith.

Mack W. Gwinn Jr. leaves behind a legacy of excellence, marked by his unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of firearms design and technology. His impact on the industry will continue to resonate, ensuring his place among the pantheon of firearms pioneers.

Do you know Mack W. Gwinn Jr? How about his famous firearms? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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ATF Cherry-Picks Bipartisan Law, Ignoring Pro-Gun Measures

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has come under fire for its selective implementation of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), with critics alleging a bias towards advancing gun control measures while neglecting provisions beneficial to firearm retailers. National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane voiced frustration, accusing the Biden-Harris administration of cherry-picking aspects of the law to appease gun control advocates.

Discrepancies in Implementation

Keane highlighted the ATF’s swift implementation of sections of the BSCA aligned with its gun control agenda while overlooking measures aimed at enhancing mental health resources, school security, and penalties for illegal straw purchases. Notably, two unimplemented provisions—permitting Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to screen employees through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and conducting screenings of used firearms to prevent trafficking—have raised concerns among pro-gun advocates.

Selective Enforcement and Unintended Consequences

The ATF’s focus on restricting private sales and pushing for universal background checks has raised eyebrows within the firearm community. Keane criticized the ATF’s stance, characterizing it as a veiled attempt to circumvent Second Amendment rights and promote gun control measures such as “red flag” laws and restrictions on firearm advertising. Moreover, the ATF’s interpretation of straw purchases has led to confusion and additional fees for firearm transfers, exacerbating the burden on law-abiding citizens.

Questionable Priorities and Industry Complicity

The NSSF’s partnership with the ATF, particularly its “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign, has drawn scrutiny, with critics questioning the organization’s commitment to safeguarding gun rights. Keane’s remarks underscore a growing disillusionment with industry associations perceived to prioritize profits over principles. The NRA’s diminished influence has shifted attention to groups like the NSSF, prompting concerns about their alignment with government policies that undermine gun owners’ rights.

The Fundamental Issue: Freedom vs. Regulation

At its core, the debate surrounding the ATF’s enforcement of the BSCA reflects deeper ideological divisions regarding individual liberties and government intervention. Keane’s critique highlights the tension between regulatory measures aimed at curbing gun violence and preserving constitutional rights. While proponents argue for stricter enforcement of existing laws, skeptics caution against sacrificing freedoms for perceived security.

The ATF’s handling of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has reignited debates over gun control, industry influence, and the balance between public safety and individual rights. As the Biden-Harris administration navigates complex policy terrain, stakeholders must remain vigilant in advocating for policies that uphold constitutional principles while addressing legitimate concerns regarding firearm safety and access. The ongoing discourse underscores the enduring significance of the Second Amendment in shaping America’s social and political landscape.

What do you think of this latest attempt by the ATF to criminalize otherwise law-abiding gun owners? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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