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National News

July 31, 2013

Machine guns, cannons and drones at Arizona's Big Sandy Shoot

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MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. —

Machine guns are true assault weapons; they are fully automatic, meaning that one pull of the trigger fires more than one round. (Semi-automatic guns, like the ones used in many mass shootings in the United States, are not true assault weapons because they require one pull of the trigger for each round.) In the United States, machine guns have been highly regulated since passage the National Firearms Act of 1934, and a series of laws that followed tightened restrictions on machine gun owners. While most Americans can legally buy guns without background checks via private sales and gun shows, machine gun purchasers wait for months as their background checks are being processed by the feds. And while most Americans can buy modern non-assault weapons easily, machine gun owners aren't allowed to own any machine gun manufactured after 1986. In a nutshell, unlike many gun sales in the United States, machine gun sales are carefully tracked and taxed by federal authorities.

Tucker is wary of journalists, whom the machine gun world generally views as shills for liberals who want to disarm America. But after meeting with photographer Marie Baronnet and me in Scottsdale, he agrees to let us cover the shoot with no restrictions.

We almost don't make the required shooters meeting on the first day of the shoot because we take our time on the road. From Phoenix the highway winds through salmon-pink sand flats studded with cactuses to Wickenburg, famous for its dude ranches and addiction recovery centers. We cruise past curio stores and horse pastures and catch Highway 93, which knifes into the Arizona badlands. The mountains are jagged and parched.

At Milepost 148, tourists snap pictures of Nothing, Ariz., a cluster of boarded-up, sun-chewed shacks that once housed an All Mart and a gas station. A warning is scrawled in black spray paint: "No Trespassing. Private Property. Keep Out."

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