URBAN MYTH: Buying a machine gun

by Erik  

Unfortunately, anytime the media discovers a topic they can use to blow out of proportion they quickly exploit it.  One of the best examples is civilian ownership of machine guns.  Everyone has seen machines guns in use on TV, movies, and in video games. They are cool, but the fact is owning one is extremely expensive and somewhat hard to do. 

Machine guns are defined as any weapon that fires more than 1 round with each trigger pull. This is commonly known as fully-automatic, but also qualifies with a 3-round burst function, or even 2 rounds from weapons like an H&K UMP. Machine guns CANNOT be manufactured by any person, company, or government agency and then sold to civilians. Due to the GCA (Gun Control Act) and NFA (National Firearms Act) machines guns are highly restricted.

These laws prohibit civilian ownership of any US made machine guns after 1986. Further more, state laws may prohibit machine guns, so you would need to check your local and state laws before trying to purchase one. A US made machine gun of pre-1986 is usually a Colt M-16 (called a preban M-16). These are highly sought after by collectors; and because of the pre-1986 law, the supply of these guns continues to shrink as they are destroyed, lost, stolen, etc. This only increases the price of these guns over time. At the time this article was written, a Colt M-16 machine gun sells anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000. WOW! Although, there are alternatives to buying a complete machine gun.

Certain devices called lightning links will also transform certain firearms into machine guns. They are not much cheaper and are just as hard to find. Another device called an RDIAS (registered drop-in auto sear) will turn any AR-15 into a fully automatic weapon. They are just as expensive, if not more, than a pre-ban M16.

So you shell out the cash and buy a machine gun, if you have the money to spend is it really that easy? The answer of course is no. Along with a hefty price tag, the GCA requires any civilian to register the machine gun with BATFE and pay a $200 tax. This process is somewhat cumbersome, and requires a wait time ranging anywhere from 3-7 months for the paperwork to be processed and tax stamp issued. When this process is required, it is referred to as a Class 3 item or NFA item. There are several different ways to complete the paperwork, but that is covered in another article. You cannot take ownership of the item until all that is completed and processed by the BATFE.

Let's look at the total cost of ownership for a Colt M-16. Let's say Joe buys a machine gun from a Class 3 dealer for a cost of $15,000. He would then need to complete the NFA paperwork. One of the most common ways to complete this is using a revocable living trust specifically for firearms. These are usually prepared by attorneys and cost between $200-$500. The NFA paperwork would include the standard forms, a copy of the firearm trust, and a check for $200 which covers the cost of a tax stamp.

Assume a standard tax rate of 6.5% (because that what we have in Florida) combined with the rest of the fees it comes to:

$15,975 : Cost of Machine Gun (cost may be closer to $20,000)
    350 : Cost of Firearms Trust
    200 : Cost of Tax Stamp
$16,525 Total Cost of Ownership

Let's not forget the NFA paperwork/tax stamp will take 3-7 months for processing. During those months, the Class 3 dealer will retain possession of the machine. So as you can see, the process and cost of owning a machine gun is not cheap or easy to do. As time goes on, the supply of transferable machine guns will shrink and continue to drive the price and demand for these weapons. If you plan to shoot a machine gun at your local range, they will probably request to see a copy of your NFA paperwork, so you will be required to carry that with the weapon.

Considering the current economy, buying a machine gun is probably one the best investments money can buy. The problem is freeing up the $16,000+ for it.

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