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Question: Fully Automatic Weapons in Self-Defense

Discussion in 'Gun-Control Issues' started by dianahsieh, Nov 17, 2011.

  1. dianahsieh


    Oct 11, 2002
    For my Philosophy in Action Webcast on Sunday, I'll be answering a question on whether fully automatic weapons should be legal for civilians to own. My basic answer is "Yes," and I'll give my reasons for that in the discussion.

    However, I'm since I'm a gun enthusiast but not an expert, I'm hoping that some of you might be able to help me a bit. I'd like to find a good story or two of people using such weapons for self-defense. I've heard that Ronald Regan's Secret Service team defended him with automatic weapons when he was shot. And I recall stories about store owners defending their shops with automatic weapons during the LA riots. However, I don't have any particulars or sources. If you do, please post them! (You can also e-mail me at

    BTW, here's the full question:

    "Should it be legal for civilians to own fully automatic weapons? Should a law-abiding citizen be able to own a fully-automatic rifle? Or is that something that only members of the police and military should possess? As a law-abiding civilian, am I somehow violating someone else's rights by owning an M-16 fully automatic rifle – as opposed to the virtually identical (and currently legal) semi-automatic AR-15 rifle? "

    And... if you want to hear my answer live, just go to on Sunday, Nov 20th at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. (The other questions that I'll be answering are here.) If you miss the live webcast, you'll be able to find the audio recording (and likely a video) in the archives afterwards.

    Thanks in advance for any good sources that you can pass along!
  2. Cambo


    Jun 19, 2006
    If you contact Massad Ayoob in the Self Defense Forum, he could help you out with 2 specific cases where auto weapons were used in self defense. He has a lot of detailed information and has published the stories in various gun magazines.

  3. Free Radical

    Free Radical Miembro Antiguo CLM

    Sep 11, 2005
    Four Corners
    I have long been an advocate of civilian ownership of military style weapons. When Madison and Jefferson were writing the second amendment their focus was not, as many think, on the rights of hunters and sportsmen. Even self defense played second fiddle to the main concern. Having only recently liberated themselves from tyranny they understood full well that had they not been armed they would still be subjects of those tyrants. Cut to the chase. The only way that a free people can remain free from those that would abuse power and enslave them is to be able to say no to tyrants and to be able to say it with teeth in their mouths. A well armed populace discourages abuse of power and commands the attention of would be tyrants. That was what the founding fathers had in mind. That is why the citizen's right to bear arms should not be limited to pea shooters.
  4. samuse


    Jul 30, 2008
    South TX
    Free Radical pretty much summed it up.

    The 2A is not just there to let us own the bare minimum amout of gun needed to defend ourselves from a burglar or whatever, it's there to allow us to overthrow a corrupt government every generation or so. :)

    Would it be advantageous, tactically sound or responsible for a civilian to employ the use of a machine gun in a self defense shooting? Um.... No. Learn how full-auto is employed in a military role and try to apply that to civilian use stateside.
  5. 1gewehr


    Mar 22, 2006
    Mid TN
    I can think of a couple of specific instances. Here's the most famous:

    In US V Miller, the Supreme Court affirmed that the citizenry should have access to the very weapons used by the military. They ruled that a short-barreled shotgun was not covered by the 2nd Amendment specifically because nobody showed them where it had been used by the military. Had a single instance been pointed out, the whole 1934 NFA would have been thrown out.
  6. alaskacop556


    Oct 19, 2009
    I do not know of any case where a legally owned select-fire firearm was considered criminal in the use of a justified use-of-force for self defense. Legally it does not matter what type of device a person uses as long as the elements for deploying deadly force for self defense are present...

    ...however, there are civil issues that you will almost certainly have to deal with, even more so because select-fire legal firearms are not cheap and a lawyer will see the dollar signs circling your head if family members of the deceased/injured retain a lawyer. This is the primary reason a lot of LEO departments are moving away from select-fire.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2011
  7. j-glock22


    Sep 20, 2001
    Central Ohio
    Well look at it from a user end practical situation...

    Look up Hickok45 on YT " full auto vs. semi auto" you will get a realistic perspective for a personal defense situatuon...
  8. minuteman32

    minuteman32 NRA & GOA Life

    Aug 20, 2004
    Central IN.
    Perhaps US V Miller could be used to overturn the '86 Machinegun freeze.
  9. TexasFats

    TexasFats NRA, TSRA, SAF

    Sep 14, 2006
    Austin, TX
    The biggest problem that I see is the question of where do the bullets go? If you get all of them into the bad guy(s), then there would not likely be a problem unless you live in a really leftist area. On the other hand, regardless of the type of firearm, you are responsible for every stray shot. Unless you can really control the weapon, it would seem that full-auto would increase the probability of stray rounds going where you don't want them to go.
  10. 1gewehr


    Mar 22, 2006
    Mid TN
    The question is really only relevant IF you have time to think about and choose an appropriate weapon.

    If you happen to have just finished cleaning your MP5 and loading a bunch of magazines for an upcoming shoot when the home invaders break down your door, the question is moot. Use the MP5.

    If you see them coming up your 1/4 mile driveway, then you have time to get a more useful weapon.

    In any case, I would much prefer to have to justify my use of whatever weapon I used to a jury than have my surviving relatives bury my family.
  11. dianahsieh


    Oct 11, 2002
    Gah! I missed these messages, because I thought that my settings were such that I'd get e-mail alerts to replies. In any case, thank you to everyone who replied! I'll make use of them in future discussions of this topic, I'm sure.

    Also, the video of my answer to this question is now available on YouTube:

    My basic view is that the critical question to ask with any potentially dangerous property is whether mere ownership constitutes a threat to others. That's not true of firearms, including fully automatic weapons.

    -- Diana Hsieh (Ph.D, Philosophy)
  12. Peace Frog

    Peace Frog ...............

    Jan 24, 2007
    I actually held a BG at gunpoint with my Vector Uzi a few years ago until the police arrived.He was in the process of stealing my tools from one of my sheds.My dog was going nuts inside the house so I grabbed the closest weapon to me and had him prone out until the police arrived.
    None of the police hassled me but a few wanted to check out my Uzi...They were all cool.
  13. ancient_serpent


    Jun 6, 2008
    Dr. Hsieh, I just finished watching your video. You answered the question very well; you put it in terms so that anyone, even someone unfamiliar with firearms would understand. I also like that you approached it from a Rights perspective.
    My comment on your apartment scenario is that the police would not be banned from the possession or use of a firearm in that area, so neither should the private citizen be denied the use or possession of a firearm. The responsible person would only use those firearms to shoot positively identified, active threats in any situation, being conscious of the back stop. The apartment scenario should change nothing.
    Enjoyed the video, thanks for posting it.