ATF sees uptick in machine guns

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More machine guns were recovered and traced in Pennsylvania by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last year than in the four prior years combined, according to a report issued by the federal agency this month.

The ATF traces firearms at the request of other law enforcement agencies, often because they were used in a crime. Philadelphia accounted for 3,513 of the recovered firearms, followed by Pittsburgh, with 958.

Last year the ATF traced 9,459 guns in Pennsylvania, which is consistent with recent years. More than half were pistols, with revolvers, rifles and shotguns making up most of the balance.

The ATF reported 132 machine gun traces in the state last year, compared to a total for the years 2009 through 2012 of 110.

The ATF defines a machine gun as "any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger." The agency includes in its definition parts designed for use in converting a non-automatic weapon into a machine gun, and parts that can be combined to make a machine gun.

Individuals can obtain permits to own machine guns made before 1986, following payment of a fee, and there are 17,714 such weapons registered in Pennsylvania, according to the ATF.

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