Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
With the March 26th deadline looming for the estimated 500,000 owners of bump stocks to surrender or destroy their lawfully acquired property without compensation or face felony possession of a machine gun charges that can carry up to a 10 year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine, lawsuits challenging the arbitrary regulatory rule change have been expedited in the D.C. Circuit after legal efforts failed to temporarily block the rule from being enforced.
There are three lawsuits which were consolidated in the D.C. Circuit, two of which argue that then-acting Attorney General Whitaker, who enacted the new rule, was improperly and unconstitutionally appointed by President Trump. If decided in the Plaintiffs’ favor, it would nullify the rule.
The other lawsuit challenges that the rule change reclassifying bump stocks as machine guns is a gross interpretation and application of existing law.
Briefs are hurriedly being filed today to meet the rushed deadline.
But why would anybody be making such a big deal about bump stocks, though? It’s just a stupid, novelty accessory. Who cares?
These lawsuits have as much to do about bump stocks as the Boston Tea Party had to do with tea.
Words mean things; at least they’re supposed to. When it comes to law and the enforcement of laws, words take on a more forceful meaning, giving government the power to use violence against those who violate those words.
The term “machine gun” has a legal definition – 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 – and there are laws and regulations surrounding that definition that have severe consequences if not properly followed.
“Semiautomatic” also has a legal definition – a firearm that requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge. A function of a semiautomatic firearm is that it can be “bump fired,” with or without a bump stock.
Bump firing can occur by placing a finger on the trigger then using the other hand to pull the gun forward into the trigger finger. The gun will fire, the recoil moves the gun backward away from the trigger finger, but the forward pull from the other hand pulls the trigger back into the trigger finger to fire again. And again. And again.
Bump firing is merely a firing technique that pulls the trigger faster than squeezing the trigger with a finger, but it still requires a “separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
A bump stock only rests a rifle against the shoulder and slides backward with the recoil of the rifle. That’s all. The user still has to pull the rifle forward with the other hand to pull the trigger into the trigger finger. And it still requires a “separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
A bump stock is not, by legal definition, a machine gun, and the ATF ruled multiple times during the Obama Administration that it complied with the law as written. Yet after March 26th, according to a government rule change, anyone who owns just the plastic stock, even without owning a semiautomatic rifle, can be charged with unlawful possession of a machine gun – all because of the actions of one terrorist in Las Vegas.
To put it another way, and to play off the emotions of another tragedy, on April 15, 2013, terrorists set off two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds more, including 16 who lost limbs.
There is another law regulating “destructive devices” which is defined as “any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas, such as a bomb, grenade, rocket having a propellant charge of more than 4 ounces, missile having an explosive charge of more than 1/4 ounce, mine, or similar device.” Same charges as unlawful possession of a machine gun apply.
Imagine the outcry from the millions of owners of the wildly popular Instant Pot if the government arbitrarily ruled pressure cookers met the definition of a destructive device, and owners were given 90 days to surrender or destroy them or face 10 years in prison or $250,000 in fines.
There might actually be more legal weight to arguing that pressure cookers meet the definition of destructive device than arguing that bump stocks meet the definition of machine gun. But it would be just as wrong as what the Trump Administration has done regarding bump stocks.
Had Eric Holder, under the direction of Barack Obama, arbitrarily declared a plastic stock owned by a few hundred thousand gun owners to be a machine gun, required their confiscation or destruction without compensation, and was threatening to throw non-compliers in federal prison for 10 years, what would the reaction of the American Right have been? Yet when a Republican President stands side-by-side with the NRA to do it, it’s, “Well, bump stocks are stupid anyway.”
So, why should anybody care what happens to bump stocks? Because nobody should want the enforcers of law to decide what they want a law to mean, regardless of what it says. That is a dangerous path for a country to take.