TV shows continually illustrate criminals using machine guns. In this story that spans an episode of two separate CBS shows on the FBI, white supremacists kidnap a school bus full of young children using AR-15s (FBI S2 E18 and FBI Most Wanted S1 E9 March 24 2020). The show explicitly states that these are the types of guns used by the military. There is also a reference to the criminals having AK-47s. This episode goes well beyond guns, with ICE agents being the bad guys, grabbing the heroes daughter who is a US citizen, and who were in league with white supremacists.
On TV shows, machine guns always seem to be the weapons of choice for bad guys when they get in shootouts with police. Some hyperbole is to be expected on television, but the level of exaggeration has become pretty over-the-top. In real life, criminals use machine guns so rarely that a 2016 survey of prison inmates only broke down the numbers for uses of handguns, rifles, and shotguns. The survey did not even mention fully automatic weapons. Since 1934, there are only two know uses ever of a machine gun being used in a murder. And even before 1934 they were very rare.
The first five segments here are from ABC’s The Rookie, one episode from NBC’s Chicago PD, and two episodes from CBS’s Magnum PI. Police are the targets in all but one of the below episodes from the 2018-19 Season (the single exception is the first episode of Magnum PI). This list is probably very far from exhaustive. One question is where do these television show writers think that the criminals are obtaining all these machine guns, certainly not at your local gun store.
The Rookie (Season1): E2, E4, E9, E17, E20
Magnum PI (Season 1): E1, E15
Chicago P.D. (Season 6): E14
In the current 2019-2020 season, we haven’t been keeping close track, but other recent examples include:
CBS’ SWAT (Season 3): E11 January 15 2020
CBS’ FBI (Season 2): E12 January 14, 2020; Episode 18, March 24, 2020
Fox’s Deputy (Season 1): E1 January 2, 2020
FBI: Most Wanted (Season 1): Episode 4, January 28, 2020; Episode 6, February 18, 2020, Episode 9, March 24, 2020
Chicago PD, S7, E10 January 8, 2020; S7 E16, March 4, 2020
Hawaii Five-O, Season 10, Episode 18, February 28, 2020; Season 10, Episode 20, March 13, 2020
Other examples of television media bias on this particular point can be found here.