You may recall that Mitt Romney screwed the pooch on machine gun laws in the last presidential debate: “We, of course, don’t want to have automatic weapons, and that’s already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons.” Not true! As long as a machine gun was lawfully possessed and registered before May 19, 1986 and its owner satisfies all the other capricious local, state and federal laws surrounding their ownership (e.g. you gotta tell the ATF about interstate transportation), no problemo. In fact, roanoke.com reports that the ATF reports that the United States is home to around half-a-million legally registered fully automatic firearms. And proudly trumpets the fact that Old Dominion leads the country in machine gun ownership. OK, maybe not so proudly . . .

The submachine gun that Richard G. Webster kept in the bedroom of his Franklin County home came to the attention of law enforcement by chance.

After responding to a call about an assault at Webster’s house on Sept. 10, 2011, sheriff’s deputies were greeted by the heavy scent of marijuana. That led to a search warrant, which led to Webster’s Sten Mark III model 9 mm submachine gun.

Webster, 48, pleaded guilty last month in Roanoke’s federal court to illegal possession of a machine gun. Such charges are rare in Western Virginia.

Less rare, it seems, are cases of machine guns that are lawfully owned, whether by law enforcement agencies, gun dealers or private citizens.

See what they did there? Why did writer Laurence Hammack lead with a story of illegal machine gun possession when the headline reads Virginia tops U.S. in machine gun owners ? That’s machine gun profiling that is! Never mind. Data dump:

There were 30,220 registered machine guns in Virginia as of March, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

That’s more than any other state in the nation.

Florida and California, with far larger populations than Virginia, ranked second and third in the number of registered machine guns, with 29,128 and 28,774, respectively.

So now you know. How about a demographic breakdown or some info on the type of guns registered? ‘Cause those numbers also include police machine guns.

Their rising numbers—240k in 1995 to 488,065 today—could shed some light on that whole police militarization thing. Uh, no.

Ginger Colbrun, an ATF spokeswoman, declined to say how many of the machine guns — either nationally or in Virginia — are in the hands of police officers, as opposed to private citizens. Because a $200 tax is levied on each registered gun, Colbrun said, privacy issues prevent releasing even a breakdown of ownership by category.

Virginia State Police, which maintains a separate registry of the state’s machine gun owners, also declined to provide a breakdown, but for different reasons.

The information is not readily available, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said, and a Freedom of Information Act request seeking a percentage breakdown would take at least six weeks to process.

Hey, you’re gonna love this one. Apparently, the fact that “so few” (any?) of VA’s machine guns are used in a crime is proof positive that America should have a more “thorough” vetting process for firearms ownership and gun registration.

Such stringent requirements, combined with registration records that can make it easy for police to track a weapon, is the reason machine guns don’t get used very often by criminals, said Daniel Vice, senior attorney with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Machine guns actually are a really good example of why strong gun laws work,” Vice said.

Or not.

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25 Responses to Memo to Mitt Romney: VA Leads U.S. in Machine Gun Ownership

  1. So now I understand it was Mitt Romney who “screwed the pooch” in the last debate not Obama who came right out and said he wanted to take people semiautomatic rifles.

    It just could not be more clear.

  2. Romney didn’t have the time to explain the FOPA and Hughes Amendment to the crowd. We have a hard enough time doing that here. He was merely making the distinction between assault weapons and automatic weapons, since most people think they’re the same thing.

  3. Neither Romney nor Obama know every gun law on the books, in all of the states. Paying for and legally registering a machine gun or full auto is pretty much a PITA everywhere.

  4. You mean not only Romney had to explain all the exceptions and laws of each state on NFA weapons but he should have explained the difference between what is perceived as an AK47 by the public and what the average joe can buy at the local pawn shop? 2 minutes ain’t enough, nor is the average john q’s attention span. No pooches were harmed in his debate, he just got what was needed to be said in his limited time frame.

    • I guarantee you neither Romney nor Obama know the difference between what is legal and what is not, and what the general public can and can’t own.

      • I think there was, to point out that all those eeeeevil scary AK-47s which Obama thinks should be in the hands of our soldiers, not civilians, are not the same full-auto AKs which feature in Rambo movies. Perhaps he could have said it better, but it’s important to point out that Obama’s lusted-for AWB will not be banning automatic weapons, which are already effectively illegal to acquire, given that no new ones can be licensed and grandfathered ones are becoming prohibitively expensive.

  5. The NRA’s endorsement of Romney is partisan hackery. As governer Romney signed a permanent version of the AWB in his state.

    “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense,” Romney said in 2004. “They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”

    http://gunowners.org/mittromney-2012.htm

    • You can’t honestly expect the NRA to endorse a Democrat for President, can you? Millions of OFWGs across the nation would suddenly stop writing checks. It doesn’t matter if Romney’s past and positions are antithetical to their very mission. You gotta keep the machine running and sales strong. Scare mongering does that quite well.

    • That was then, this is now.

      People can and often do change their minds. I did on the death penalty. But instead of applauding his change of heart in supporting our civil rights you try and equate him with a man that stood in front of cameras on national tv and said he wanted to take away peoples guns.

      You simply cannot make some people happy.

      • So I should support a man who has actually taken away legal firearms from law-abiding citizens instead of a man who talked about it, but did no such thing during 4 years as President?

        Who is more likely to take away guns? Someone who did exactly that while in power, and has now changed his positions to better his chance of election (You say he may have genuinely changed his heart. I say he is pandering. Neither of us knows.), or a man who was in power for 4 years and had the opportunity, yet did not?

      • There’s that saying “don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”… to applaud Mitt’s dubiously self-asserted change of heart would be tantamount singing in the aforementioned “rain”.

  6. What Mitt says depends on who the crowd is and if it will sway votes, so expect his “core beliefs” to change from day to day. With that note…

    A Liberal, a Moderate and a Conservative walks into a bar.

    The bartender says “Hi Mitt. What can I get for you?”

  7. Romney’s comment proves he has no understanding of the right to bear arms. I’ve heard some neocons suggest otherwise.

    • Romney doesnt understand and Obama wants to outlaw them and said as much on live tv. Sounds about par for the course for politicians of each respective party.

  8. I hear a lot of Romney vs. Obama on TTAG. Neither of which, in my opinion, impresses on the Gun issue. I am curious why I never hear anyone, except maybe myself, talk about Gary Johnson. He IS a candidate. If you don’t vote for the candidate that represents your ideals, you will never get one.

    • It’s shaping up to be a very close race between mitt and barry. A realitively few votes for johnson won’t get him elected but will go a long way towards ensuring barry gets a second term. Difi and the UN are waiting with bated breath for barry;s second term. And let’s not forget the scotus.

      • The bigger fight is breaking the two-party stranglehold on our country’s political debate. Supporting a third party with money, time, and a vote is the way to make progress in that fight.

        -D

  9. Our proprietor is doing his level best, again, to be the typical northeastern Jewish voter rather than the 2A voter. Fine. So be it. But get with the hep cats, RF. Down here in NYC, the epicenter of the tribe, they ain’t so down with the Lightworker these days. State of the art Judaism is questioning its blind allegiances which have led them to vote like Puerto Ricans for decades. I know that trends are slow to get to RI, but you appear to be a savvy user of the Internet Machine, so I would have thought you’d have picked that up. Throw in a modest dose of 2A fervor and I’d have expected you to at least dispense with the predictable Romney bashing straight outta NYT HQ.

    • Guys, you’re missing the point.

      I said Romney screwed the pooch on full-autos. That’s it. If you seriously think that I wouldn’t vote for Romney over Barack “AWB” Obama (not to mention his Supreme Court nominees’ betrayal of 2A), you’re just not paying attention. Or willfully misinterpreting my copy.

      Telling the truth about guns means no-holds-barred analysis of all sides of firearms issue: the NRA, Romney, Obama, MikeB302000, manufacturers, etc.

      Rest assured I am a staunch supporter of our constitutional protections of our right to keep and bear arms. No sales or owner registration. No background checks. Gun rights restored to felons who’ve done their times. National reciprocity. Guns allowed om airplanes. The whole nine yards. It’s on the site.

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