ATF officials don't associate Virginia's high number of machine guns with an increase in crime, because registered weapons are less frequently used.
Virginia leads the nation in the number of legally owned fully automatic machine guns, according to new figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. There are a little more than 30,000 registered fully automatic machine guns in Virginia as of March.
Florida had the second-highest total with 29,000, followed by California with 28,700.
The annual report claims there were nearly 500,000 registered machine guns nationally.
A spokesperson for the ATF says privacy issues prevent the agency from releasing a breakdown of ownership by category.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police executive director Dana Schrad insists fully automatic machine guns are rarely used to commit crimes. She adds the weapons are less of a threat because authorities know who owns the guns.