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What to Know About Full-Auto Guns

Much can be found in the media today about the use of firearms and our constitutional right to own and carry them. Notable events where perpetrators used “assault weapons” to harm innocent people serve to stir confusion and controversy. Responsible gun owners and those who choose to carry a firearm for personal protection in Arizona should know the facts. Here’s what you should know about full-auto guns.

Some Important Definitions

Terms can be confusing to the unlearned, and news organizations throw around hot-topic words without discrimination. It’s important to learn how the law defines certain types of firearms and to use those definitions correctly. Here are some of the most popular and confusing:

FirearmSection § 13-3101 of the Arizona Criminal Code defines a firearm as any “handgun, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, or other weapon” that uses an explosive to expel a projectile. Using this legal definition, air-powered guns (pellet guns, BB guns, etc.) are not considered firearms.

Semi-automatic – A semi-automatic firearm automatically loads the next round after the previous round has been fired. Each round requires a separate pull of the trigger to be fired. It can be fired rapidly, but only as rapidly as the operator can pull the trigger. Semi-automatic firearms are legal in Arizona.

“Assault” weapons – This title is a misnomer because it typically refers to the aesthetic aspects of a firearm, which have little or no bearing on how it operates. Many modern semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are styled to closely resemble military-style firearms and sport such modifications as a detachable magazine, folding stock, a pistol grip, and equipment rails for mounting lights. Semi-automatic firearms with such styling are legal in Arizona.

Automatic weapons – Otherwise known as machine guns, these firearms fire more than a single round when the trigger is pulled. They typically have multiple settings that allow firing a single round, a small burst of rounds, or fully automatic fire until the magazine is empty. Automatic weapons are illegal in Arizona.

Prohibitions on Full-Auto Guns

The 1986 Hughes Amendment to the Firearms Owners Protection Act makes it illegal to purchase or own a newly manufactured fully automatic weapon. Such firearms are only allowed for use by military or law enforcement units and new weapons can only be procured through authorized manufacturers for those units.

Arizona law prohibits the sale and possession of full-auto guns of any type unless allowed by permit under the existing provisions of the Firearm Owners Protection Act as amended in 1986.

Permitting for Full-Auto Guns

Under the Firearms Owners Protection Act, as amended in 1986 by the Hughes Amendment, fully automatic weapons can no longer be added to the NFA registry and legally owned. However, such weapons manufactured and owned before May 19, 1986, can still be owned and transferred through legal sales.

These firearms can legally belong to citizens in full compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws. These basic guidelines include:

  • Must not be classified as a “prohibited person.”
  • Be at least 21 years of age to purchase an automatic weapon from the current owner.
  • Be a legal resident of the United States.
  • Be legally eligible to purchase a firearm.
  • Pass a BATFE background check.
  • Pay a one-time $200 transfer tax.

An issue can arise when a legal owner wishes to transfer a fully automatic weapon that is privately owned to another heir upon their death. The heir must also meet the qualifications, including passing the BATFE background check before the weapon is transferred through inheritance. The best option if you own a fully automatic firearm is to place it into a Revocable Gun Trust. This allows the trust to legally own the firearm regardless of how many generations of your family possess it. Contact a local family law attorney for more information.

C2 Tactical offers all manner of gun safety and proficiency training as well as range memberships and more. Drop by our locations in Phoenix or Tempe, Arizona, to learn more.

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