Handguns, since 1934, have killed approximately two million more people than legally owned fully automatic weapons. Although they can fire hundreds of bullets with a simple squeeze of the trigger, fully automatic weapons have not impacted our society as one would expect.
In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed a national restriction on the purchase and use of all fully automatic weapons. To obtain a fully automatic weapon one would have to go through extensive background checks, character tests, exorbitant fees, and approval from the National Treasury Department.
After approval, an automatic weapon has to then be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. In contrast, to obtain a handgun, an individual (depending on state) would most likely just need to wait a couple of days and shell out a few hundred bucks. The contrast to obtain these different weapons is startling, and the main reason why handguns have been more prevalent in committing violent acts.
At first thought, a hulking automatic gun, shooting 12 mm bullets at a rate of 1,000 rounds per minute seems catastrophic. The largest concern over automatic guns is simply what if. How would society function if a crazed individual were to gain access to such a powerful weapon? Automatic weapons possesses so much power, that they have the capacity to inflict unconscionable amounts of violence on a community. We are reminded of these horrific acts in the forms of mass murders in the United States.
Although automatic weapons were not used in the Virginia Tech shootings, or Columbine, they still pose that threat of what if? What if, instead of a semi-automatic rifle or pistol, those students had a fully automatic submachine gun? What if a disturbed individual gained access to an automatic weapon and in a heat of rage decided to go into a crowded space? The concern over automatic weapons naturally lies within their power. They can shoot infinitely faster than a handgun, have larger more piercing ammunition, and require no reloading time in between shots. The mere thought of an automatic weapon is frightening, however the act of obtaining such a gun is so difficult and costly that violent statistics concerning automatic weapons are insignificant.
Between 1934 and 2009 over two million people have been killed via firearms in the United States. Whether by suicide or through murder, legally owned automatic weapons have accounted for a total of 2 of these 2 million+ murders. The statistics involving automatic guns are meager due to the strict enforcement and governmental control of the weapon. In 2005, there were approximately 255,000 automatic weapons registered with the BATF-ownership was split equally among civilians and law enforcement agents.
Both automatic weapons used in the violent crimes were registered and purchased legally. A great example of the insignificance that automatic weapons have on our society is a statistical breakdown of Miami in the 1980s. The city, which was overrun by drug wars and homicide was considered to be the "machine gun Mecca"of the world. Over 600 murders were committed annually in Miami during this time (compared to 74 a year now) and only 5 people were thought to be killed via an automatic weapon. Of the thousands of guns seized annually by law enforcement throughout the country only .7% are automatic weapons.
The industry is so well regulated due to the regulation of manufacturers. By restricting and overseeing the production of automatic weapons the market becomes scarce and heavily regulated. Luckily nobody will know the true power of these weapons on a society because of such strict and efficient enforcement.