California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, according to advocacy groups. And yet the state has been rocked by three mass shootings in 44 hours.
At least two of the alleged gunmen carried out the attacks using semi-automatic weapons and at least one of the firearms was currently illegal to possess in the state.
We spoke to CNN’s Guns in America contributors Jennifer Mascia and Stephen Gutowski to learn more about the firearms used in each attack.
The following questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
The weapon used in the attack was a MAC-10 semi-automatic assault weapon or a Cobray M11, authorities said (they said both). What does this mean and is this type of gun legal in California?
JM: First, a caveat: an original MAC-10 – the Military Armament Corporation’s Model 10 – is usually a fully automatic submachine gun. This means multiple bullets are ejected per trigger pull.
Machine guns are heavily regulated under the National Firearms Act. The weapon he used was not a machine gun. MAC-10 variants include the Cobray M11/9, which was originally reported to have been ripped from the gunner.
MAC-10 variants are illegal under California’s Assault Weapons Ban for two reasons: they have a threaded barrel and they are designed to take 30-round magazines. Anything over 10 laps is illegal under California law.
OS: The gun taken from him appears to have been attached to a suppressor/silencer, meaning it likely had a threaded barrel which would make it illegal to buy today.
It’s also not legal to buy today because California has banned the sale of handguns without certain features, such as a magazine safety, loaded chamber indicator, or “microphone” technology. -stamping” (which no arms company actually produces).
However, the suspect in this case is 72 years old and the ATF trace indicates that he bought the gun himself. We need more information about the date of purchase. But, given that the company that made it went out of business in the 1990s, it’s possible he purchased it legally before the ‘assault weapons’ ban came into effect. in California.
How the Monterey Park shooter’s shooting and manhunt unfolded
Have any modifications been made to the weapon? If so, did that make it more dangerous and/or illegal?
OS: CNN reports suggest police believe he was illegally making suppressors, also called silencers, at home. Video of him being disarmed by Brandon Tsay shows what appears to be a suppressor attached to the end of the barrel. California…has a total ban even on possessing suppressors. So it was not legal for him to have.
Silencers reduce the sound of gunfire. However, they don’t actually silence a gunshot. Depending on the caliber and effectiveness of the suppressor, they typically lower the sound to the same decibel level as a jackhammer. Suppressors work exactly the same way as car mufflers and were invented by the same person (Hiram Percy Maxim).
How could he shoot so many bullets?
OS: Police report the shooter used a 30-round magazine, which California also prohibits from new sales. Given the suspect’s age, he could also have purchased the magazine before California instituted its ban decades ago.
California passed a confiscatory law prohibiting the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 cartridges in 2016. However, a federal judge blocked its enforcement because he feared it would violate the Constitution and this case (Duncan v. Beccera) is ongoing. law courts.
Additionally, survivors report that he also reloaded during the attack. Thus, the size of the magazine did not prevent him from having to reload his weapon at least once.
Additionally, the gun he used can fire bullets at about the same rate as any other semi-automatic firearm (one shot per trigger pull).
The gun had a long barrel at the end – what is it and what does it do?
JM: I think it’s a silencer that muffles the sound of a gunshot. But this has not been confirmed by law enforcement. Silencers are regulated by the same federal law that regulates machine guns. He would have had to register the device with the federal government to legally own it.
Authorities said the gun was a semi-automatic weapon, legally registered in the shooter’s name. How is this pistol different from the semi-automatic used in the Monterey Park shooting and why is it legal and the other not?
JM: The Monterey Park pistol is not legal in California because it has features prohibited under the state’s assault weapons ban: a threaded barrel and it is designed to take 30-round magazines.
The weapon used in the Half Moon Bay shooting was a registered semi-automatic handgun that lacked any of the features listed in California’s assault weapons ban. Most handguns in circulation are semi-automatic, meaning another bullet automatically enters the chamber after firing. It does not need to be cocked manually, like a revolver.
What does the number of victims tell you about the type of weapon used?
JM: AR-15s are particularly deadly, so they leave fewer survivors, but most mass shootings are actually carried out with handguns. The Half Moon Bay shootout was so deadly probably because he aimed at his victims and shot them at close range.
With the Monterey Park shooting, I knew immediately the shooter hadn’t used an AR-15 because there were so many survivors. A MAC-10 variant and other “assault pistols” are closer in lethality and functionality to a handgun than an AR-15. They’re old weapons, heavy and not very accurate, so the kill count looked more like a handgun rampage than an assault rifle rampage.
The suspect in the Half Moon Bay shooting legally owned his gun and was targeting specific people, authorities said.
OS: Unfortunately, when an armed person attacks a group of unsuspecting and unarmed people, it doesn’t take any kind of advanced weaponry or tactics to inflict a terrible toll on a community. Mass killings were perpetrated with all kinds of weapons, from semi-automatic rifles and handguns to pump-action shotguns, bolt-action rifles, knives or blunt instruments.
That’s how many mass shootings there have already been this year
So far, the cops haven’t found any weapons, just shell casings. Can they trace the type of weapon using these casings and/or the victim’s injuries?
JM: Casings can be run through NIBIN, the ATF’s ballistics database, to connect to casings found at other shooting scenes. But NIBIN does not produce the serial number or chain of custody of a firearm. It can, however, connect shooters across jurisdictions and prevent repeat shooters from striking again.
OS: Police can identify the caliber of the weapon used in the attack from shell casings recovered from the scene or from the victims’ wounds. However, it is much more difficult to determine the specific firearm used in an attack from shell casings or wounds alone.