What we know about the weapons used in the deadly California attacks

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California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, according to advocacy groups. And yet the state was 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 weapons was currently illegal in the state.

We caught up with 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 either a MAC-10 semi-automatic assault weapon or a Cobray M11, according to authorities (they said both). What does it mean and is this type of gun legal in California?

JM: First, a caveat: an original MAC-10 – the Military Armament Corporation Model 10 – is typically a fully automatic submachine gun. This means that multiple bullets are ejected per trigger.

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 shooter.

MAC-10 variants are illegal under California’s assault weapons ban for two reasons: they have a threaded barrel and are designed to take 30-round magazines. Anything over 10 rounds is illegal under California law.

SG: The gun that was taken from him appears to have a suppressor/silencer attached to it, meaning it likely had a threaded barrel that would make its purchase illegal today.

It’s also not legal to buy today because California has banned the sale of guns without certain features, such as a magazine safety, a loaded chamber indicator, or “microstamping” technology (which no gun company actually produces).

However, the suspect in this case is 72 years old and ATF tracking indicates that he purchased the gun himself. We need more information about when the purchase was made. But given that the company that made it went bankrupt in the 1990s, it’s possible he legally bought it before California’s “assault weapons” ban went into effect.

How the Monterey Park Shooting and Hunt for the Gunman Unfolded

Have any modifications been made to the weapon? If so, did that make it more dangerous and/or illegal?

SG: The CNN report suggests that police believe he was illegally making suppressors, also known as 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 on even the possession of suppressants. So, it wasn’t cool for him to have.

Silencers reduce the sound of gunfire. However, they really don’t silence a shot. Depending on the caliber and effectiveness of the suppressor, they generally reduce 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 was he able to fire so many shots?

SG: Police report that the shooter used a 30-round magazine, which California also prohibits further sales. Given the suspect’s age, he could also have purchased the magazine before California instituted its ban several decades ago.

California passed a confiscation law banning the possession of magazines containing more than 10 rounds in 2016. However, a federal judge has blocked enforcement over concerns that it violates the Constitution, and that case (Duncan v. Beccera) is still pending. in the courts.

Additionally, survivors report that he also recharged during the attack. Therefore, the size of the magazine did not prevent him from reloading the weapon at least once.

Furthermore, the gun he used can fire rounds at basically the same rate as any other semi-automatic firearm (one shot for every trigger pull).

The gun had a long barrel at the end – what is that and what does it do?

JM: I believe it’s a silencer that muffles the sound of a gunshot. But this has not been confirmed by the police. Silencers are regulated by the same federal law that regulates machine guns. He would have to register the device with the federal government to legally own it.

Authorities said the weapon was a semi-automatic weapon, legally registered in the shooter’s name. How is this weapon different from the semi-automatic used in the Monterey Park shooting, and why is it legal and the other not?

JM: The Monterey Park gun is not legal in California because it has features prohibited by the state’s assault weapons ban: a threaded barrel and is designed to hold 30-round magazines.

The weapon used in the Half Moon Bay shooting was a registered semi-automatic pistol that had none of the features listed in California’s assault weapons ban. Most guns in circulation are semi-automatic, meaning another bullet automatically moves into the chamber after firing. It doesn’t need to be manually armed like a gun.

What does the number of casualties say about the type of weapon used?

JM: AR-15s are particularly deadly, so they leave fewer survivors, but most mass shootings are perpetrated with handguns. The Half Moon Bay shooting was so deadly, likely because he targeted his victims and shot them at close range.

With the shooting in Monterey Park, I knew immediately that the shooter didn’t use an AR-15 because there were too many survivors. A MAC-10 variant and other “assault pistols” are closer in lethality and functionality to a pistol than an AR-15. They are old weapons, heavy and not very accurate, so the death toll was more like a gunfight than an assault rifle firefight.

The suspected shooter in Half Moon Bay legally owned his gun and was targeting specific people, officials said.

SG: Unfortunately, when an armed person attacks a group of innocent, unarmed people, it doesn’t take any kind of advanced weaponry or tactics to inflict terrible damage on a community. Mass murders were carried out with all types of weapons, from semi-automatic rifles and handguns to pump-action shotguns, bolt-action rifles, knives or blunt instruments.

This is how many mass shootings there have been this year

So far, the police have not found any weapons, only shells. Can they trace the type of weapon using these shells and/or the victim’s wounds?

JM: Cartridges can be run through NIBIN, the ATF’s ballistics database, to connect it to cartridges found in other shooting scenes. But NIBIN does not produce a gun’s serial number or chain of custody. However, it can connect snipers across multiple jurisdictions and prevent repeat snipers from attacking again.

SG: Police can identify the caliber of the weapon used in the attack from shell casings found at the scene or from victims’ wounds. However, it is much more difficult to determine the specific firearm used in an attack from spent shells or wounds alone.

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