If “criminals don’t listen to gun laws”, then why do they obey laws about fully automatic weapons, grenades, and other weapons? Aren’t the pro gun people just trying to make a convenient argument?


When a question is worded this way, it’s disingenuous at best. You aren’t made more clever by wording a question this way. It’s an obvious “gotcha” type question, but there is a lot of nuance to the discussion. 


Some points before we get into the actual heart of the matter regarding class 2 and class 3 weapons and other affiliated concepts. 

  1. The 2A discussion is not cut and dry in the sense of emotions and feelings and thoughts. It is however a cut and dry argument about what the Second Amendment is, and what it is not. The Founders were clear. That is unmistakable. This 2A discussion is, however,  multi-faceted and there are a lot of things that deserve thoughtful commentary and innovative thinking to resolve. That does not mean more gun laws and less guns, by default. 
  2. Arguing online about emotions is not a very progressive act. It helps literally nothing, except to further polarize and push the two sides apart. 

Now about this snarky question that seems to be an obvious point for the anti-gun crowd on the surface. 

It’s a ridiculous sentiment. To say that criminals obey any law is an arbitrary statement. They obey the law when they are arrested and prosecuted for it. By force. Also, just because someone is a criminal does not mean they dabble in ALL crimes. Criminals act at least partially on how likely they are to get away with breaking a law. Idf anything, this question further highlights the idea that a criminal is kept in check by ONLY the stringent, highly regulated portions of the gun law, and that they take advantage of the gun laws they know cannot be enforced easily. 


Additionally, here is why criminals don’t possess class 2 and class 3 firearms and destructive devices as classified by the original ATF rulings and NFA legislation:

  • Very few criminals plan months and years in advance to prepare themselves to have weapons for use in a crime. These types of firearms and weapons take a significant time to source and purchase legally
  • Criminals, even if they have the money, don’t tend to spend more than they have to to get suitable tools for their criminal endeavors. These types of firearms and devices are very expensive relative to other options on the market
  • Criminals don’t generally like doing background checks, filling out forms and submitting them to law enforcement scrutiny, and dealing trough proper, legal channels in sourcing weapons
  • Oh, and this one: Criminals often DO gain access to, or modify legal firearms to be illegal by the standards of the laws you reference in your ridiculous question. The number of fully-automatic Glock selectors on the “streets” has grown exponentially over the past 2-3 years – especially in crime riddled, homicide heavy cities like Chicago. Where – you guessed it, it is illegal to possess such items (it’s a federal law – so they are illegal everywhere). Criminals don;’t care about laws. 
  • Finally (and this is far from a comprehensive list) for our purposes, criminals, as enterprising as some of them may be, are not in the habit of learning techniques, investing in tooling and resources, and in manufacturing the parts and guns they would need to, to use class 2 and class 3 affiliated products. Criminals source tooling that is easy, cheap, and available

We do however, also see highly organized or well funded criminal organizations that start to dabble in these enterprises, because they know that they are not going to be reigned in because they have “otherwise legitimate” public-facing people on the payroll, or have control of local populations sufficiently to avoid capture or prosecution (e.g. Drug Cartels and large Organized Crime syndicates)


Why aren’t Criminals converting firearms to full auto?


The act of making a firearm into a fully automatic weapon is not particularly difficult – of course I say that as someone with the requisite skills to do so – and that is not lost on me in this discussion. But criminals are generally pretty lazy. The ones that are not, tend to not get caught as often. But criminals also don’t think through the process sometimes. A few modified parts could yield the fully automatic weapons you speak of for criminals if they just read up on the mechanisms and how they work. But there are other concerns for a criminal after they have in their possession a fully automatic firearm:

  • Ammunition is expensive
  • Fully automatic firearms are loud, attention grabbing and harder to handle than semi-automatic or other firearms
  • Fully automatic firearms ave specialty use cases, and just about none of them are committing crimes solo, or in small groups
  • The failure rate and response time and skills needed to run a fully automatic firearm make using one full time if they aren’t heavily maintained and built to an exacting standard, very difficult
  • Criminals talk too much. They like to show off their cool toys. Most criminals would just bring more attention to themselves than they want if they were toting around fully automatic weapons
  • Law enforcement takes fully automatic weapons very seriously, and track, investigate and prosecute potential law-breaking in that arena aggressively

There are many other reasons that fully automatic weapons don’t make sense for a criminal. One might envision a few highly publicized events like the street shootout between LAPD and other assisting departments, and fully-automatic-gun-toting-robbers as commonplace, but they are few and far between generally. 

Why aren’t criminals using grenades and rocket launchers, then?


Many criminals are, and do. In some countries in the Middle East you can buy fully automatic firearms at public markets for exceptionally low prices. RPG launchers? Check. AK47’s? Check. Incendiary rounds and propelled munitions? Check.

We just don’t see it on a daily basis in our neighborhoods, so we assume it doesn’t happen. In some places, terrorists prefer bombs and explosive devices, the weapon of choice, over firearms. We just don’t call them criminals, we call them terrorists, and ten, only delicately behind the anonymity of our desks and keyboards – never in polite company. 

These are criminals. In every country in the world it is illegal for a human to kill another human in an act that isn’t defensive in nature. This would classify the users of bombs and improvised explosives and other munitions alluded to in your question, as criminals. But that reality is too inconvenient for your snarky question. 

In the USA, we as a society have adhered to, generally, the practice of not blowing things or people up. These types of criminal acts are met with extreme law enforcement enactment, extreme public interest and disgust, and generally do not occur often. 

By the way, a massive bomb could be built with things you can buy readily on their internet without a Federal Firearms Dealer’s involvement, or off the shelf of Home Depot or other agricultural, tooling, or materials companies. 

Criminals think they will get away with at least most of the crimes they commit, and they have a strong sense of self preservation. They are painfully aware that they shouldn’t mess with highly explosive munitions if they don’t need to, or if they don’t fully understand them. They are painfully aware that they will be hunted relentlessly if they blow up buildings, vehicles, people, instead of stealthily shooting someone in a back alley, or pulling a knife on someone. 

Criminals don’t think through a lot of the criminal acts they perpetrate – and that is many times, because they are acts of passion, acts or opportunity and acts that require quick assessment as to the efficacy of the crime. So this question is not a good fit for a criminal act generally. 

As a final note: Criminals do not obey those laws – but only the criminals that don’t obey them. Not all criminals perpetuate all different types of crimes, which means that while they are criminals, they may not be criminal offenders of that particular section of the penal code. 

Criminals are largely not the smartest people around, and they lack the foresight, innovation in thinking and have far too much self preservation and far too few resources or money to stock up on hard to source, hard to use, hard to afford weapons of mass destruction and other destructive devices.