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There Is A Ban On Automatic Weapons, So How Is This Belt-Fed 'Machine Gun' Completely Legal?

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A CNN report this week is bringing renewed attention to a firearms manufacturer that is effectively giving gun enthusiasts legal access to automatic weapons.

Slide Fire, a Texas-based manufacturer, announced plans this week to release its latest weapon, a $6,000 rifle that the company says "sprays like a fire hose." The new weapons employ the company's patented stock -- a rifle accessory that rests against the shooter's shoulder and uses a gun's recoil to trigger the next round -- and are belt-fed, allowing for huge strings of bullets to be fired at a rate of up to 800 rounds per minute.

(Watch the video above for a demonstration of Slide Fire's belt-fed rifle.)

"We recommend no more than 30 rounds on the belt, but one person could make it as big as they want," Brandon Renner, sales and marketing manager for Slide Fire told CNN Money of the latest product.

For all intents and purposes, Slide Fire's new SFS BFRs function like machine guns; much like the company's other rifles, which use magazines that limit their ammo load. But technically speaking, all of Slide Fire's weapons are semi-automatic, and therefore not beholden to the strict federal regulations on actual machine guns.

Slide Fire's bump stock, which can also be purchased separately to add on to other rifles, is the key to this loophole. The Associated Press broke down the technology in a February report:

A bump stock fits over a rifle's "buffer tube," replacing the gun's shoulder rest. A "support step" attached to the pistol grip partially covers the trigger opening, preventing contact with the finger. By holding the pistol grip with one hand and pushing forward on the barrel with the other, the finger comes in contact with the trigger. The recoil causes the gun to buck back and forth, "bumping" the trigger.

So, technically, the finger is "pulling" the trigger for each round fired.

Because Slide Fire only modifies the trigger and the stock -- not the receiver, the only part regulated by federal authorities -- its products have been deemed legal. As Slide Fire proudly touts on its website, the ATF has determined "the 'bump-stock' is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms act." A representative for the ATF confirmed that statement to CNN.

While Slide Fire markets its products as easy to control, some gun enthusiasts like Tom Mannewitz of the TargetMaster store and indoor gun ranges in Garland, Texas, aren't convinced.

"If somebody was shooting a 'bumpfire' gun here they might be on their target; they’re more than likely going to be on somebody else’s target or the floor or the ceiling or whatever," he told CBS 11.

Washington lawmakers are also aware of the product's ability to effectively skirt broader bans on machine guns and have expressed concerns.

"This replacement shoulder stock turns a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire at a rate of 400 to 800 rounds per minute," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a key proponent of gun control legislation, told AP earlier this year. "I strongly believe that devices allowing shooters to fire at similar rates should also be outlawed."

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