What's the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons?

Officials say 23 firearms found in hotel room of Las Vegas shooter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Officers have found 23 firearms in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter, investigators said Monday night. 

Stephen Paddock also had two devices that are attached to the stocks of semi-automatic guns to allow fully automatic gunfire, according to the U.S. officials who were briefed by law enforcement and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The devices are called bump-stock devices and modify the stock of a gun so it can fire rounds rapidly. 

On Monday, News4Jax went to Green Acres Sporting Goods to find out more about these types of weapons. 

Sales manager Z. Farhat said from the cellphone videos he's seen, it's hard to tell what types of guns were used because some semi-automatic guns can sound like fully automatic weapons.

"It sounded like it could be fully automatic, but that being said, if it was a semi-automatic and it was one of the faster-firing ones and the person knew what you were doing, you can make a semi-automatic sound almost like a full auto," Farhat said. 

Farhat said the difference between an automatic gun and a semi-automatic gun is that the trigger on an automatic gun only has to be pulled once to fire several rounds of bullets. With semi-automatic guns, the trigger has to be pulled each time a round is fired.

But, he said, "You can make a semi-automatic fire almost as fast as a full auto."

Farhat said semi-automatic guns can be converted into automatic weapons, but it’s illegal.  

"If you do that, you’re committing a felony," he said. "If you get caught, it’s a lot of time in jail.”

Farhat said Green Acres doesn’t sell automatic weapons, and it’s a very lengthy process to obtain one. 

“It takes about eight months to 12 months to get everything, all the paperwork finalized. There is a special tax stamp you have to pay for, and that all runs through the ATF," he said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also required to run background checks on people who want them. 

Once someone gets one, Farhat said, the ATF can show up at their house anytime, unannounced, to make sure they have the right paperwork and that the gun is locked in a case. 

Automatic guns are also expensive -- setting the buyer back at least $20,000.

Based on reports, Paddock was wealthy and likely had the means to buy them.

Another concern people have is how Paddock was able to get nearly two dozen guns into the Mandalay Bay casino hotel.

Farhat said the guns aren’t very long, and can be taken apart, so they would be easy to hide them in luggage. 

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