Access to fully-automatic weapons a long, extensive process

FILE - Automatic weapon (Nexstar File Photo)
FILE - Automatic weapon (Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Following the deadly shooting in Las Vegas, questions remain about the weapons used by the gunman.

Officials said Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers, killing at least 59, and injuring more than 500.

Law enforcement reports indicated that Paddock had more than 16 guns in his hotel room, as well as 18 in his Nevada home.

Experts say getting access in Texas to the kind of weapons the shooter may have used is an extensive process.

“It takes 6 to 12 months for the appropriate licensing to come in, from the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives], you have to have a clean criminal background of course,” said Kent Morrison, who owns private security company BSG Security Services.

“And [fully-automatic weapons] are also very costly. They are $15,000 plus, as high as $45,000 in some cases, pretty easily,” Morrison said.

Semi-automatic weapons are far easier to obtain, Morrison said. Though, the shooter would likely have had to illegally modify it to yield the rapid-fire effect that was heard by many on eyewitness video of the massacre.

Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, holds a semi-automatic weapon on Oct. 2, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)
Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, holds a semi-automatic weapon on Oct. 2, 2017. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“There is no way to legally modify or manufacture modern semi-automatic rifles into a full auto. There has not been an allowance for that, unless you become a firearms manufacturer,” Morrison said.

Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson authored the state’s concealed carry laws in 1995 as a state senator.

“You can’t defend against every circumstance,” he explained. “We need to figure out how we can keep the nut-jobs away from guns, and we need to recognize that no system is foolproof because this guy had no evidence of being a nut job.”

Patterson said he listened to recordings from from the scene, and believes the weapon was fully-automatic.

“I don’t think you can fire that cyclic rate of fire by pulling a trigger each time,” he said.

Ed Scruggs, vice chair of Texas Gun Sense, an organization that supports tighter restrictions on guns, said this incident proves his mission.

“Obviously for something to happen like Las Vegas, just like Orlando, just like Newtown, there is a problem,” he stated. “We have a problem, and whatever we’re doing now, which is not much, it’s not working.”

“We certainly believe that there are things we can do across the country relating to gun violence that we’re not doing,” Scruggs said.

“It’s just too easy to amass this type of weaponry,” he added.

Morrison said most weapons legally-obtained are not used for criminal activity. “There are, to the best of our knowledge, three recorded instances since 1934 of legally-owned full-autos used in the commission of a crime,” he said.

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