Chasing the Machine Guns

AK-47 guide beginner buying

via Wikimedia Commons

I try to keep up with the criminal use of machine guns in the United States. To date, I have documented five cases of an actual machine gun that was used in a crime (as opposed to the crime only being possession or transfer of a machine gun) since passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934.

Last month, a little girl, Nikolette Rivera, was killed in Philadelphia. The weapon used was identified as an “AK-47.” I see a lot of that, when the firearm is actually a semi-automatic variant like the WASR-10. But some specifics caught my eye.

Politician ‘stunned’ by shootings of 2-year-old, 11-month-old looks to combat Philadelphia violence
A gunman had fired an automatic rifle through the front of the house, leaving six bullet holes, said police.

AK-47 that killed 2-year-old may have been supplied by man who allegedly shot 11-month-old: Police
Nikolette Rivera was in her mother’s arms in her North Philadelphia home Sunday afternoon when bullets from an assault rifle ripped through her house, fatally shooting her in the head, according to Philadelphia police.
[…]
“We believe that Francisco Ortiz supplied the AK-47 that was used to commit the homicide” at Nikolette’s home, police said Friday.

Several other media outlets emphasized “automatic rifle,” as opposed to the usual mistakenly interchangeable “assault rifle” or “assault weapon.” Thinking that I may have discovered a sixth criminal use (in 86 years), I reached out to the first reporter to clarify that the Philadelphia Police Department had actually said it was an automatic weapon.

-crickets-

I tried some others. No response.

I attempted to contact the Philadelphia Police Department. After weeks of repeated emails and tweets, they responded.

Thanks for reaching out to us, unfortunately we are unable to accommodate your request, thank you.

The Philadelphia Police Department told other reporters that the weapon was an automatic rifle. They held a press conference and told the world it was an AK-47. But when I asked if they were sure it was an AK-47, and not a semi-automatic variant… “we are unable to accommodate your request.”

Another point noted in omission in these “automatic rifle” reports was any mention of the ATF. Since they have authority over NFA firearms, you might expect them to have been involved if the weapon was a machine gun. I contacted the ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division, to ask if they knew of the use of an actual machine gun in the Rivera shooting.

-crickets-

But that may mean nothing since they are generally slow to reply to inquiries.

I have a niggling suspicion why the Philly PD doesn’t want to talk about this anymore.

Some years back, federal prosecutors held a press conference in New Hampshire to announce indictments. The charges included possession of an un-registered submachine gun equipped with an equally un-registered silencer. And they put the firearm on display. A reporter got a nice photo of it.

It was a KRISS Vector CRB semi-auto, with a barrel shroud. The lack of the SMG’s fire selector was a giveaway.

I left a comment on the story to the effect that, unless the gun was modified, that was simply a semi-automatic carbine, not a sub gun. And I blogged about it.

Suddenly the reported prosecution dropped out of the news. I never heard about it again.

Did the Philadelphia Police make a similar, embarrassing error? What are the odds?

comments

  1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    Journalists make these errors all the time. My favorite was when Rolling Stone magazine (a publication that vocally prides itself on being as Left leaning, and actually has monthly comparison charts showing its positions against Right/Christian views) published an anti-gun story and included a photo of a shotgun with the caption describing it as an example of a semi-auto rifle.

    Then there was the ABC news article this past week about the alleged 80% “kit” gun recently used by the Saugus HS shooter. The article described such a kit as being 80% complete, so that the end user only has to assemble the pieces to make the finished gun.

    1. avatar DrewN says:

      USA Today went with “plastic guns invisible to x ray” again today.

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        That’d be a Glock 7. And it’s porcelain, not plastic.

        1. avatar MouseGun says:

          And it costs more than you make in a month

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Sadly that’s true…

        3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          Doh! You’d be surprised what I make in a month!

      2. avatar Guesty McGuesterson says:

        My Glock Model X exists in my head and is invisible to all forms of search. I should send a mental image of it to AP News.

        1. avatar Sebastian says:

          Lets not forget the USA Today story with AR-15 accessories that included the dreaded AR-15 with chainsaw mount.

          https://www.alloutdoor.com/2017/11/09/usa-today-ar-15-chainsaw-bayonet/

    2. avatar LazrBeam says:

      I don’t think journalists are making “errors”. I firmly believe it is on purpose misinformation with the goal of planting the seed, nurturing the seedling, and growing the full blown idea that real automatic/assault weapons are routinely used on our streets to sow mayhem and violence. Gotta condition the sheeple. Tell the lie enough times and……well, you can guess the rest.

      1. Their theory is based on, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”

        The exact quote, according to Josh Sugarmann, founder and executive director of the anti-gun Violence Policy Center, “ Assault weapons’ menacing looks, coupled with the public’s confusion over fully-automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons –anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun– can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons.”

        It works quite well on the hoplophobe, consumer of legacy media and the uninformed voter.

    3. avatar JohnQ says:

      I don’t believe it’s an error. It’s reported like that on purpose in order to sell papers/clicks.

  2. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Yeah, these people don’t have a clue and don’t want one. They’re basically DNC boosters. Look at Epstein’s story getting spiked and then CBS going after the person they thought released the video of ABC covering for him and his Democratic/liberal patrons.

    In terms of it being an actual MG I would be less surprised if it was say an old school open bolt MAC. The only real way I could easily see it being fully auto is a broken disconnector which is really bad or oddly an illegally modified MG got stolen from someone who’s smarter than your average banger. Also I wouldn’t be surprised that bangers in Chicago know they can get caught with a gun and be out with little to no time with a state prosecution but to avoid the ATF getting involved with 10 years in club fed.

    1. avatar LazrBeam says:

      Epstein didn’t kill himself.

  3. avatar D says:

    These mischaracterization are NOT errors. They are done purposely to fool gullible and stupid voters. It is working like a charm

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Don’t underestimate the stupidity of the MSM. “New reporter” looks for pretty faces (or minority quota baby) they don’t recruit for brains. Look at any twit on CNN, MSNBC, etc to validate.

      1. avatar Steven Walker says:

        Editors and actual journalists aren’t hired on the basis of looks. Those pretty faces in front of the cameras rarely write their own copy; they just read what is handed to them or projected on the teleprompter. Mistakes in reporting about firearms in mass media have only two causes: willful ignorance or a contrived political agenda.

    2. avatar DDay says:

      Sometimes they are not errors and the media/police/prosecutors use inflammatory/incorrect terms purposely to push an agenda of gun control but other times the media/police/prosecutors have no clue they are not using the correct terms.

      There are people who literally have no understanding of firearms even though they’re a cop or prosecutor. And most media just take the terms they were given by who they interview and go with those.

  4. avatar Rusty - Always Carry - Chains says:

    The headline always reads for the scariest hit possible. There are two reasons for this 1: Clockbate 2: It helps push the agenda.

    Always assume reporters and cops are ignorant when it comes to firearms identification and technology. Occasionally they will surprise you by actually having a clue, but not often.

  5. avatar strych9 says:

    Mistake? Intentional misdirection? I dunno.

    I’d like to think it has to be intentional because no one could be that stupid but I’ve seen some cops handle firearms and… well, yeah in certain departments they might actually be that ignorant and/or stupid, especially the ones further up the chain.

    The guy who took a gun off my dad for “officer safety” years back was definitely more of a threat to himself with that pistol than my dad ever was. Said some damned funny things too.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I had a couple cops stop me for an inspection sticker a week expired a few years back, and TX required me to advise them I was armed. For officer safety. So, as opposed to the usual “Leave it alone” and going about our business, this jerk jacks me up against my truck and starts digging around in my damn pocket, fishing out my LCP. For officer safety. I guess there’d been a rash of cops murdered over expired inspection stickers. Bad enough, right? Then I discover the asswipe is attempting to CLEAR my gun while holding it pointed at my abdomen, and I’m sorry, it didn’t go off, but *I* did! While his partner was explaining I needn’t worry, he was an expert, the fuckup dropped the chamber round on the ground while juggling the gun and magazine. By now I am literally SCREAMING some very insulting language, while trying to remove myself from in front of my own gun. Eventually they left me alone to my major criminal life, my disassembled gun on the back bumper, after again explaining all about “officer safety”. It is not one of my favorite subjects, if that’s your major job, do it from home. Without the pay taken from MY pocket.

      1. avatar Phil says:

        I only had one officer try to disarm me for “Safety”.
        I explained: 1. There is no right to officer “Safety” 2. If he is that afraid for his “Safety” he should not be a police officer and 3. The gun I was carrying (Glock) was in a Blackhawk holster. The same kind of gun and holster an officer from another town was practicing his “draw” from and shot himself in the leg at a local gun range. He died on the scene from what I recall bleeding out of an arterie.

        Don’t particularly have anything against the police but they all seem to be incredibly paranoid about their “Safety”. If that was my take on the situation I would look for other work, but that’s just me.

      2. avatar strych9 says:

        So I guess I’ll elaborate for amusement’s sake since your experience was obviously aggravating. So I’ll hope you get a laugh from this.

        Years back my dad has to deal with this Sheriff’s Deputy over nothing at a DUI checkpoint. Deputy asks if my pops is armed and dear ol’ dad states that he is. The Deputy asks my dad to step out and if he can “hold onto the gun while we talk” for safety reasons, which is a nice way of telling my dad to fork over the burner because the law says he has to surrender it upon request.

        So dad hands over the gun. The deputy drops the mag right off the bat and then asks if there’s one in the chamber. My dad responds in the affirmative. So the Deputy tries to eject the cartridge in the chamber but the slide won’t move. He pulls harder. Nothing. He starts moving the gun around in a way that my dad steps over to the side to stay out the line of the barrel. Deputy even ends up pointing the gun at himself trying to clear it. He starts to make comments about “cheap foreign pistols”. This goes on for a few minutes with the Deputy getting more and more aggravated. He’s cursing about “damn cheap crap guns” and repeatedly talking shit about “foreign made junk”. Finally, he admits defeat and asks my dad how to clear this pistol. Pops tells him to thumb the safety down and pull back the slide. Voilà! The slide pops back easy as you please and the gun spits the round out of the chamber.

        So now that we’ve been at this for awhile the cop finally talks to my dad for probably about half the time he spent dicking with this pistol, asking if he’s been drinking etc. and then hands the gun back with the admonishment that my dad should buy a nicer gun, preferably one made in America.

        It was gramps’ 1911. The officers and Deputies at the checkpoint, to a man so far as I could tell, all had Glocks. Took some serious effort on my part not to lose it laughing.

  6. avatar TommyJay says:

    I’m a bit of a true crime fan and the TV show “Homicide Hunter” feature retired detective Joe Kenda and the case files of his 380+ solved homicides in Colorado Springs. Most are from the ’80’s or 90’s.

    He had a closed case where some senior member of the Crips (or similar) parked his vehicle on a hilltop and sprayed a small apartment building 100 yards out or so, with a large quantity of full auto rounds from an AK-47. All the brass was ejected into the vehicle.

    The building was cement block and no one inside was hurt, but a woman inside a vehicle in the parking lot was killed. The motive was some drug deal beef with an apartment resident. The shooter had multiple aliases and it took a year or three to track him down, but they did catch him.

    1. avatar ColoCopper says:

      What are “full auto rounds”??

      1. avatar Mark-in-Indy says:

        This is the best I could come up with. “A unit of ammunition consisting of the parts necessary to fire one shot, completely working by itself with little or no direct human control”. So…apparently it found its own way out of a super secret Barnaul ammunition lab, came to the U.S., and shot someone. The future is now.

      2. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

        “What are “full auto rounds”??”

        Israeli ‘Black Tip’ 9mm, a very ‘hot’ load, reputed to be specified for use in the Uzi 9mm submachinegun…

    2. Are you saying they used an actual select-fire AK-47? Do you have a source for that? I collate reported cases of real machinegun crimes.

  7. avatar CliffG says:

    I think it is easiest to just presume the average reporter is ignorant in regards to several different subjects: guns, religion, economics, history, politics. Uh. Oh dear. Just about everything. Never mind.

    1. avatar Karl says:

      I always say if someone knows nothing about a subject I know about, why should I trust them on subjects I know little to nothing about? Then apply it to politicians, but not before you are in a place where you can get a stiff drink.

  8. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    Federally, defendants armed at arrests are tracked by type of weapon (rifle, pistol, shotgun) or “other”, semi or full auto as well as use of suppressor. The data is available but getting it will probably be difficult.

    Often times especially with Controlled Substance cases the firearms charge is dropped or not even charged in return for a plea because all prison time on firearms charge must be served and is ineligible for downward departure, “safety valve” etc…

  9. avatar "keep yur beaks off my roadkill", possum says:

    Apples and oranges when hating on gunms.Shot in the head during a drive by, that was probably over ” thats my tree stand” right.

    1. avatar GluteusMaximus says:

      Possums don’t get rabies because they have a low body temperature. Just learned that recently

      1. avatar ColoCopper says:

        No, they get low body temperature because of rabies….. REALLY LOW!!!

  10. avatar SEWalk says:

    I have always had a passing curiousity about the actual number of NFA weapons involved in crimes, particularly the number of legally possessed and registered Class III machine guns, SBS, SBR, AOW, and suppressors used with nefarious intent. I remember reading a couple of decades ago that there had only been a single such instance, by a police officer in New Jersey. How many of the five crimes you have analyzed involved legally possessed machine guns?

    1. avatar Red in CO says:

      Pretty much, especially since the number of legally owned NFA items (mostly suppressors) has SKYROCKETED in the last decade. According to basically all the “experts”, the increased numbers in circulation should see an increase in the number of crimes committed with them right? Apparently not, because way too many people, even in law enforcement, don’t know anything about guns OR criminals

  11. avatar Alan says:

    Possible questions are as follows:
    1. Do the Philadelphia Police know the difference between a sub-machine gun and a semiautomatic firearm?
    2. Does “media” know the difference, or does such blather as If It Looks Like A Machinegun It Is A Machine Gun rule, as appears to be the case.
    3. One could also inquire, of both the police and media, Do They Care? In any case, the differences are significant, but Never Let Facts Interfere With The Rush To Print.

    1. avatar ColoCopper says:

      An even better question might be how many people actually know the difference between a semi-automatic, a submachine gun and a machine gun?

      1. avatar Geoff "Run, Bloomie, run!" PR says:

        Submachine gun fires ammo specified for pistols, machineguns fire rifle ammunition.

        Semiauto, one action of the trigger, one round…

      2. avatar Henry says:

        Cute name. Did you realize that it is an anagram for ColCooper? 🙂

  12. avatar pwrserge says:

    Expecting the media wing of the Demokkkommie party to be truthful is like expecting Hitler to start celebrating Passover.

  13. avatar Not Larry from Texas says:

    Here is idea for a better article than garbage using weapons illegally. How about doing a run of posts of legal NFA weapons that been used in self defense by laws abiding citizens .

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Well, I have a suppressed .300 SBR which I guess is an NFA weapon since that is where the unconstitutional requirements for it come from, and I can imagine circumstances where I might use it in home defense, but that is not what it’s for. OTOH, if you are expecting someone with a legal machine gun, suppressed or not, to utilize it in a self defense situation, that would be SERIOUSLY stupid. Such guns start around $20,000, and would be instantly claimed as “evidence” by the police, and lost forever before the next morning. If you somehow managed to get it back, it would be years later and with hundreds of thousands of rounds through it, rounds which your taxes paid for. For home defense, the Mossberg comes out, the M16 stay in the safe.

      1. avatar Slow Joe Crow says:

        Offhand there are three well known incidents involving defensive use of a registered machine gun. Two in the 70s where a gun dealer in Florida used a submachine gun against home invasion ( same guy, same gun, different criminals) and one in Virginia? where an HK sales rep defended himself from some bikers with a select fire Mini-14. I don’t know any stats for other NFA items, suppressors, SBR, SBS or AOW.

    2. avatar Red in CO says:

      Unfortunately I doubt that would tell us very much. I don’t have any hard data on this but I expect that’s an exceedingly small number since conventional wisdom holds that anything used in a DGU will never be returned to its rightful owner and NFA items are expensive and time consuming to acquire. Of course, in the case of something like a suppressor (by far the most common legally owned NFA item) it’s easy to remove it before the authorities arrive. Repleal the incredibly dumb and blatantly unconstitutional NFA and that probably changes, especially since a suppressed sub machine gun is arguably the BEST home defense weapon

  14. avatar GomeznSA says:

    They key issue is that bad info IS getting out there to the majority who do not have even a remote degree of knowledge regarding firearms. We can discuss whether it is due to lack of knowledge or intentional but what really matters is that it is incumbent on US to be as knowledgeable as possible and to NOT use their terminology – like ‘clips’ instead of magazines or the worst of all “gun violence”. By using their terms we have ceded too much ground in the discussion they are always claiming they want to have.

  15. avatar Anymouse says:

    “Automatic” could be used in the archaic sense, such as Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP), which means automatic loading, i.e. semi-automatic. Unless something says full automatic, machine gun, subgun, etc, I’m going to assume semi-auto.

  16. avatar JR Pollock says:

    I never refer to machine guns as anything other than machine guns for this very reason. It’s either a semi-automatic or a machine gun, and yes, select fire weapons are machine guns.

    This is the fruit of Joshua Sugarmann’s relentless labors for the last 30 years. It’s both lazy and sloppy journalism, and intentional deceit.

    Carl, a much more interesting and informative article would be if you actually chronicled the 5 criminal uses of machine guns.
    Were they registered?
    -or-
    Were they illegally modified?

    The only instance I’m aware of, where a lawfully registered machine gun was used in a crime was in 1996 when a Dayton, OH police officer used his personally owned and registered MAC-11 to murder one of his informants.

    1. avatar Henry says:

      According to my research there were two instances…
      The first one was by a serving police officer.
      Since 1934, there appear to have been at least two homicides committed with legally owned automatic weapons. One was a murder committed by a law enforcement officer (as opposed to a civilian). On September 15th, 1988, a 13-year veteran of the Dayton, Ohio police department, Patrolman Roger Waller, then 32, used his fully automatic MAC-11 .380 caliber submachine gun to kill a police informant, 52-year-old Lawrence Hileman. Patrolman Waller pleaded guilty in 1990, and he and an accomplice were sentenced to 18 years in prison.

      http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcfullau.html

      The other homicide, possibly involving a legally owned machine gun, occurred on September 14, 1992, also in Ohio. And that was committed by a PHYSICIAN. https://web.archive.org/web/20111110123437/http://members.cox.net/arporro/photos/Shooting.pdf

  17. avatar Hannibal says:

    Yup, the media generally know so little about guns that it’s not worth reading ANYTHING into their word choice when it comes to that stuff.

    And a lot of cops- especially city cops- aren’t much better.

  18. avatar Sam Hill says:

    Just because I’m a cop and carry a pistol don’t mean I know but my mastersanything about guns. I might pay someone to clean mine after firing ten rounds once a year. The academy taught me how to sell tickets so, don’t tie up court. I might be a university graduate but my master was in libacious arts. Also, as a once upon a time journalist, I learned if want your name on the front page a lot don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. Truth is never was a cop although I wanted to be one about the age of four but I grew out of before I turned five. Got a GED cause going to highschool junior year got in the way of the judge, my uncle, and a USAF recruiting sergeant. Oh btw if it goes bang more than once when you only squeeze the trigger one time, it’s a full automatic or a thingy inside needs fixed.

  19. avatar James W Crawford says:

    About two decades ago, the Sheriff for Washington County Oregon reported that several rifles that they SUSPECTED MIGHT BE FULLY AUTOMATIC had been confiscated during an arrest. I made similar inquiries and was referred to a detective who was honest enough to admit that they were uncertain. They were intending to take the rifles to a shooting range to test them. Unfortunately; Tri County Gun Club had a prohibition on shooting full auto. I graciously offered to come in and demonstrate how to function test a firearm for full auto vs semi-auto without actually firing it.

    Triple check to ensure that gun is not loaded.
    Assume gun is still loaded. Keep gun pointed at something you are willing to destroy. Manually cycle the action to cock the weapon.
    Squeeze the trigger to dry fire the weapon while keeping it pointed in a safe direction. While continuing to squeeze the trigger, manually cycle the action again.
    Be vigilent for the sound as well as the vibration of the hammer dropping.
    If the hammer drops, the weapon is full auto.
    Release the trigger.
    Squeeze the trigger again.
    If the hammer drops the weapon is semiautomatic only.

    It turns out that the Sheriff had confiscated an impressive group of Heckler and Koch rifles. One actually was an HK-91 modified to fire fully automatic only with no selector. One had a full auto trigger and grip assembly installed but was still semi-auto only because the bolt and bolt carrier assembly were semiautomatic. The other rifles were just semiautomatic HK-91s.

    Since these guns had not been used to commit crimes and had simply been possessed by criminals committing other crimes, this doesn’t count.

  20. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    The government (police) lie a great deal. And the anti-civil rights Press aren’t interested in independently confirming what the cops tell the public.

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