Friday, January 28, 2005

On Not Collecting Machine Guns

As any Ten Ring reader knows, we collect guns. In this post, we talked about our collecting interests and mentioned that we do not collect machine guns. Many people are surprised to find out private citizens can own fully automatic weapons. One has to jump through some government hoops, get fingerprinted, and buy a $200.00 tax stamp that registers the gun. But, it is legal. If you can own a firearm, you can own a machine gun.

We don't own any. We don’t have anything against these weapons in the hands of law-abiding citizens. We have enjoyed shooting them. We believe that they are great investments, but are too expensive for us to afford.

Machine gun prices have risen fast since the Hughes Amendment to the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act banned the purchase of machine guns made after 1986. Further, all machine guns must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). If they are not registered they are illegal to own. There is no way now to register an unregistered machine gun (once you could do so, but not anymore). You cannot transfer an unregistered machine gun to a private citizen—unless you want a long stay in a government facility equipped with gray bars. (For more legal information click here.)

The fact that no new machine guns can enter the supply stream and old ones cannot be registered causes a very small supply in the face of a fairly large demand. Economic s dictate that the price of these weapons is reaching the stratosphere. The prices will continue to go up as weapons are destroyed in house fires, stolen, confiscated, or whatever else reduces the supply still further. The only thing that will change this upward price spiral is the repeal of the Hughes Amendment, the ability to register machine guns made before 1986, or both.

There are probably thousands of unregistered machine guns out there. They might be in Grandpa’s attic since his Dad bought one in the 1920s when it was perfectly legal to but he never did trust the ATF enough to register it. Or, the gun could be a war trophy, or a bringback (a gun stuck in a duffle bag and shipped home from the war). Here at the Ten Ring, if we opened one of our grandfather’s old footlockers and found an unregistered machine gun, we would cry as we turned it into the ATF—we have to stay on the legal side here don’t you know.

So, how much does one of these things cost? A MAC 10 machine pistol will set you back about $3,000.00. It is a good entry level item since you could hold it a couple of years and trade up for another gun. An Uzi might cost about $8,000.00. A Thompson sub-machine gun will really hurt. You are looking at about $18,000.00 or more. The early models from the 1920s were carefully machined, polished, and blued. One of these in collector’s condition, well the sky’s the limit as far as cost. World War II models were less well-finished and the manufacturer took many shortcuts in making them. Still, renewed interest in collecting WWII weapons has also raised the price of the later made guns.

Here at the Ten Ring, we have our wish list. We would like a WWII Thompson. We collect military firearms and no WWII collection is complete without one. We would like an M14 since we collect rifles made in the Springfield Armory and one of these would almost complete our collection. We would like a Browning Automatic Rifle (not the semi-auto hunting rifle Browning makes now) since they are fun to shoot.

But, we cannot afford them—at least not now. Our government has passed laws and promulgated rules that have artificially inflated the prices of these guns. Their decisions have made it impossible for most middle class people to buy part of their nation’s heritage. Only people with a Rolex on their wrists and Mercedes in their garages can invest in these guns. So much for an egalitarian nation and fairness for all.

We make do. We occasionally rent a Thompson at a local range that rents machine guns. We have gone to machine gun shoots. We read about them. We hope that we can repeal the Hughes Amendment and send the ATF registration scheme into the dustbin of history.

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