There have been 78 instances of criminals firing fully automatic weapons in Minneapolis so far this year, according to ShotSpotter data.
A fully automatic weapon is one which fires more than a single bullet per press of the trigger. They are also known as “machine guns,” have been tightly regulated since 1934 and banned since 1986. Today, collectors are allowed to own machine guns produced before 1986, but high price tags and exceedingly strict regulations make them next to impossible for the average person to acquire. Fully automatic rifles in poor condition cost about $20,000 — higher-quality rifles routinely sell for over $50,000.
The amount of fully automatic gunfire in the streets of Minneapolis is shockingly high given America’s tight control of these weapons.
Since the outset of this year, the Minneapolis Public Health and Safety Committee reports that 935 rounds have been fired as part of fully automatic strings based on data collected by the city’s ShotSpotter. If even one of these bullets were to find its mark, it would represent a substantial change to American gun crime statistics.
Over the last 86 years, fully automatic weapons have only been used in four documented incidents that resulted in death, three of which were perpetrated by police or military members who used their service weapons. The fourth killing occurred in 1992 and might not have even involved a machine gun — details about this shooting are scant.
In 2019, a Mississippi man used a fully automatic rifle to fire at police in an event that was so unusual it elicited comments from federal law enforcement.
Fully automatic rifles popping up at crime scenes is “extremely, extremely, extremely rare,” Rich Marianos, a former assistant director of the ATF, remarked after that incident. Robert Haar, the agent in charge of the local ATF field office, seconded this assessment, noting that it’s “very unusual” to see a fully automatic weapon used in crime.
Machine guns account for about 0.1% of the 393 million guns in the U.S.
However, in the grand scheme of things, the amount of fully automatic gunfire in Minneapolis pales in comparison to the amount of regular gunfire. In January through September of 2019, the city’s ShotSpotter technology detected 5,402 rounds fired across 1,533 activations. This year through September marks a nearly 381% increase in the number of rounds fired with the city reporting 20,611 shots across 5,303 incidents.
Fortunately, the majority of these bullets don’t contact a person. 503 people have been hit so far this year, a 26% increase over last year through September. 84% of these people have been black. 42% are from outside Minneapolis. 10 people have been shot more than once in the city in 2021.
The average number of shooting victims per week has increased from 5.2 in 2019 to 13.2 so far this year — up 254%.
Meanwhile, the police have recovered fewer guns from crime scenes this year than last as the overall rate at which crimes are solved continues to plummet.