Florida’s Strict Laws Regarding Machine Guns and Bump-Fire Stocks

March 3, 2022 Criminal Defense

It is surprising to many that Florida, a state notorious for having rather lenient general gun laws, has strict laws when it comes to machine guns and automatic firearms. This blog post will explore the current law in Florida regarding machine guns, legal ramifications for breaking those laws, as well as where Florida law remains silent regarding these kinds of weapons.

Relevant Law

Machine Guns

Section 790.221 of the Florida Statutes codifies the possession of a short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, or machine gun. The statute states that it is unlawful for any person to own or have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, or machine gun which is, or may readily be made, operable. A person found guilty of violating this statute commits a second-degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years probation, and a $10,000 fine. However, it’s important to note that this law does not apply to antique firearms. Pursuant to Section 790.001 of the Florida Statutes, an antique firearm is defined as:

Any firearm manufactured in or before 1918 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar early type of ignition system) or replica thereof, whether actually manufactured before or after the year 1918, and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1918, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.

Bump Stocks

Bump stocks are devices that make a semi-automatic weapon mimic a fully automatic weapon. Bump stocks are prohibited under Section 790.222 of the Florida Statutes. The statute specifically states that a person may not import into Florida or transfer, distribute, sell, keep for sale, offer for sale, possess, or give to another person a bump-fire stock. A person who violates this section commits a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, 5 years probation, and a $5,000 fine. The term “bump-fire stock” is defined as:

A conversion kit, a tool, an accessory, or a device used to alter the rate of fire of a firearm to mimic automatic weapon fire or which is used to increase the rate of fire to a faster rate than is possible for a person to fire such semiautomatic firearm unassisted by a kit, a tool, an accessory, or a device.

The Florida Legislature’s decision to ban bump stocks was a result of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This ban resulted in significant backlash, leading gun owners to file a bump-stock lawsuit, contending that their property was being taken away and they should be compensated. A Leon County circuit judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit, holding that the plaintiffs were given several months to sell or dispossess their bump-stocks, and the fact they decided to destroy these items instead of selling them did not mean the government destroyed their property. The law banning bump-stocks was ultimately held to be “a valid use of the state’s police powers to protect the general health, safety and welfare of its citizens.”

Where Florida Law is Silent

Florida law remains silent when it comes to the manufacture, sale or transfer, transportation, licensing, or registration of machine guns and/or fully automatic firearms. However, federal law, specifically, the National Firearms Act, prohibits the possession of any newly manufactured machine guns or fully automatic firearms but permits the transfer of machine guns that were lawfully owned before May 19, 1986. Under federal law, this transfer must be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). Further, federal law requires all machine guns to be registered with ATF.

It is important to note that ATF amended its previous regulations on March 26, 2019, and now classifies bump stocks as machine guns, effectively banning them. Similar to Florida, the ATF amended its regulations in the wake of a tragedy. This catastrophic event took place in Las Vegas in October 2017, ultimately leading to the death of 60 people and leaving 411 wounded. The gunman responsible converted his semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic rifles with the use of bump-stocks, allowing him to fire nine shots per second.

Recent Cases

On February 14, 2022, Dean Dumont was arrested in Ocala, Florida, for being in possession of an unregistered National Firearms Act machinegun. In November 2021, Dumont unknowingly attempted to sell his fully automatic Glock-style handgun to a law enforcement confidential informant. The informant purchased the firearm, and law enforcement subsequently tested the firearm and determined it was in fact fully automatic. If convicted, Dumont faces the maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

Two days prior on February 16, 2022, Marc Anthony Hayes of Haines City, Florida, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for the unlawful possession and sale of seven auto sear devices. Auto sear devices are similar to bump-stocks, as they convert a semi-automatic firearm to a fully automatic firearm. These devices were printed using a 3D printing device, and an ATF Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD) expert installed each auto sear to a semiautomatic AR-15 type rifle. The devices allowed the rifle to fire rounds as an automatic machinegun, therefore, “the auto sears were found to be parts designed and intended solely and exclusively for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun,” violating federal law.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a firearm crime, it is imperative you contact a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience defending Floridians against charges relating to firearms and will explore every applicable defense on your behalf. Give us a call at (850) 681 -7777 or send an online message to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

Written by Sarah Kamide

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