What happens when an automatic weapon is in civilian hands? - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

What happens when an automatic weapon is in civilian hands?

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A few days ago KUAM News received a video of a man shooting what appears to be a fully automatic firearm at a local firing range. According to Guam law, however, no one is allowed to own a weapon of that caliber - but there are some exceptions.

It's a weapon so powerful only law enforcement agencies and the military are allowed to have them within their arsenal. But what happens when a fully automatic weapon gets in the hands of a civilian?

John Sablan said, "The way that's its firing as far as the cyclic rate, it does mirror a full automatic weapon, but a full automatic means that for one squeeze of the trigger, if you squeeze the trigger and hold it down, multiple rounds will come out, and it will come out until you let go of the trigger." The owner of JTM Benchrest is referring to a video submitted to KUAM in what appears to be a man shooting a fully automatic weapon at a shooting range recently.

While the identity of the man shooting the weapon has yet to be determined, the man in his presence holding an orange bucket for fired ammunition is a Port Police officer and a firearms instructor. KUAM inquired with the Port Authority of Guam management along with Port Police, who say they are aware of the video. Both deputy general manager Felix Pangelinan and port chief of police confirm the officer has been questioned but indicate it has nothing to do with the port as it was done on personal time and with the officer's personal weapons.

But what does the law say about owning or operating a fully automatic weapon? Guam Police Department Chief of Police Fred Bordallo explained, saying, "It has to be registered again with the law enforcement, they can't own, a law enforcement officer can't own a weapon that's automatic. If they're in possession of a weapon that's automatic it must be owned by the department that they're working for."

While the man shooting the video has yet to be properly identified, both GPD and the Port Police could not identify him as part of their personnel. So what does the law say about civilians owning or even operating a fully automatic weapon? "Our law says they have to be inspected and they cannot have anything that can be converted to automatic," stated Bordallo. "The law restricts that, I believe."

The chief added that it's not entirely uncommon for law enforcement to show civilians how a weapon is shot, noting, "The instructor can show them this is how the weapon shoots in an indoor range, so there might be certain circumstances where it's possible that sometimes a law enforcement agency for a community relations purposes might invite some civilians or leaders or some people to come over to meet at a range."

Again, the officer was off-duty and using what Port management say were his own personal weapons.

Sablan in the meantime says civilians are prohibited from owning or even operating a fully automatic weapon. In fact, his license doesn't even allow him to purchase weapons of such kind. So what kind of guns can a regular person purchase? Sablan said, "Usually it's like a rifle with a barrel not less than 16" or a shotgun with a barrel not less than 18" or a handgun with a barrel not more than 12" in length."

KUAM can confirm that Jeffrey Gaines, the resident agent of the Guam Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms and Explosives office, is aware of the video. He however felt it was inappropriate to comment as he could not determine for sure if it is a fully automatic weapon just by looking at the video. He instead recommended KUAM to reach out to the chief of police as the territory of Guam has local laws in place that pertains to these types of weapons.

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