Virginia leads nation in the number of legally-owned machine guns

A new report shows Virginia leads the nation in the number of legally-owned fully-automatic machine guns.

Gun enthusiasts say that shooting a machine gun is an experience all its own.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Bernie Canatser.

Canatser is the president of the Virginia Arms Company in Manassas where the walls are lined with firearms that look like machine guns, but are not the real thing.

“We do sell machine guns, but they are few and far between,” he says.

But Virginia does have more of them than any other state. According to a report from the ATF, 30,220 automatic machine guns are registered in the state, followed by Florida and then California.

“If I sat and thought about it, it’s what I would expect,” says Canatser.

Canatser thinks it’s because Virginia is a state filled with gun owners, many of whom can afford machine guns that can cost up to $20,000 each. They’re a popular collection.

Even though Virginia has more machine guns than anywhere else, actually obtaining one is much harder than just going into a shop and buying one off the wall.

It requires extensive paperwork, fingerprints, photos and background checks. Plus, machine guns can’t be privately transferred from one person to the next.

Judith Bayliss of Alexandria understands what police already know, that machine guns typically aren’t associated with crime on the street, but history gives her pause.

“I find it concerning because as a Virginia Tech alum, I don’t want any more weapons in the hands of people who shouldn’t own guns to begin with,” she says.