To begin with, we need to get our language clear. “Assault weapon” is a term invented by the anti-gun crowd to describe any semi-automatic rifle that they’d like to ban. It is deliberately intended to imply a military “assault rifle”, which is a fully-automatic firearm and will continue firing as long as the trigger is held back until it runs out of ammo or the trigger is released; a semi-auto firearm will only fire once for each pull of the trigger, no matter how long it is heldl
Secondly, fully-automatic firearms can be broken down further into machine pistols, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, and machine guns. All of them will continue to fire with a held trigger, but they do differ with respect to their size, configuration, and type of ammunition used. Machine pistols and sub-machine guns both use handgun ammunition and differ mainly in size and configuration (the machine pistols looking like typical handguns and the sub-machine guns looking less so); the so-called “Tommy Gun” and the Uzi are typical sub-machine guns, for example. Assault rifles are full-auto rifles that use intermediate sized ammo, such as the popular .223, and the M-16 and AK-47 are typical examples. Full-sized machine guns use “normal” rifle ammo, such as the .308 (7.62 x 51mm) and even larger—the B.A.R. (.30-06 ammo), M-60 (.308), and M-2 “Ma Deuce” (.50BMG) are examples of those. The fact that so-called “assault weapons” closely resemble real assault rifles (the AR-15 and M-16 are basically alike, but one is semi-auto and the other is full-auto—actually “select fire”, which means it can operate in either semi- or full-auto mode by position of a selector switch on the receiver).
Now that we have our terminology straight, we can address the laws and paperwork involved with them. Like your favorite semi-auto deer rifle, an “assault weapon” in many states involves no more difficulty to purchase; typically just an over-the-counter transaction. And, in fact, most “deer rifles” use more effective cartridges and are more deadly if used against humans. “Assault rifles”, however, being capable of fully-automatic fire, are subject to much more control. To purchase one of those, the buyer must first submit to the ATF a Form 4 with a lot of personal information, and it must be accompanied with 2 copies of passport-type photos, and 2 copies of fingerprints of all 10 fingers; that form must also be signed off by a high-level law enforcement officer in the buyer’s area of residence. The form and attachments are sent to the BATFE with a check or money order for $200 (called a “transfer tax”) and the ATF sends the information to the FBI for a background check. Only if that reveals no derogatory information will the Form 4 be given a special tax stamp and be returned to the buyer. This process can take up to 6 months. Once the approved and stamped Form 4 is in the buyer’s hands, then he can actually pick up the firearm. BTW, if the Form 4 is not approved, the $200 is not returned. That “transfer tax” has to be paid every time that firearm is sold to a different person (once the paperwork is complete, of course).
FWIW, there was a law passed in 1986 that essentially “froze” sales of new full-auto firearms, and except for dealers (who face even more stringent rules) and law enforcement agencies, no such firearm manufactured after 1986 can be sold or transferred. This has, of course, reduced the stock of transferable firearms and as a result the price of them has multiplied at least 10-fold. One has to have a lot of disposable income to even contemplate purchase of a full-auto firearm these days. You will also hear these firearms described as “NFA firearms” because they are ones that are controlled by the rules imposed by the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA). That law also imposes rules on certain other things, but discussion of those is not important here.
I hope that this serves to educate you on the matter. One cannot just go to a gun store and buy a full-auto firearm, and the so-called “assault weapons” that the anti-gunners would like to ban are no more dangerous to society than your dad’s deer rifle (which they would also like to ban, but haven’t been able to do so yet).
David in Dallas, Texas
Me Here....This is reposted with permission. This came to me in an e-mail from a Radar Veterans group I belong to.