Just Because You Made the Machine Gun Doesn’t Mean It’s Legal

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Written By admin at Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Since the Supreme Court recognized an individual’s right to keep and bear arms in 2008 — but declined to say which types of arms — several lower courts have had their say on whether Americans can own machine guns.

The U.S. courts of appeals for the Third, Sixth and Eighth circuits have all said, in so many words, no right exists to have a machine gun. You can add the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to the list.

In affirming the conviction of Alaskan Matthew Wayne Henry for possessing a homemade machine gun Thursday, the Ninth Circuit held:

We agree with the reasoning of our sister circuits that machine guns are “dangerous and unusual weapons” that are not protected by the Second Amendment. An object is “dangerous” when it is “likely to cause serious bodily harm.” Black’s Law Dictionary 451 (9th ed. 2009). Congress defines “machinegun” as “any weapon which shoots, is 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.” 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b). The machine gun was first widely used during World War I, where it “demonstrated its murderously effective firepower over and over again.” William Rosenau, Book Note, The Origins of the First Modern Weapon, TECH. REV., Jan. 1987, at 74, (reviewing John Ellis, The Social History of the Machine Gun (1986). A modern machine gun can fire more than 1,000 rounds per minute, allowing a shooter to kill dozens of people within a matter of seconds. See George C. Wilson, Visible Violence, 12 NAT’L J. 886, 887 (2003). Short of bombs, missiles, and biochemical agents, we can conceive of few weapons that are more dangerous than machine guns.

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