Trump Administration Launches An Attack On Gun Rights With Bump Stock Rule

Screengrab from https://youtu.be/K2IOZ-5Nk5k

One of the wonderful thing about the federal government…and most other large organizations…is they will do nothing to to avert a crisis or tragedy and then, once the horse is safely out of the barn, they will break their own necks in an effort to “do something.” Even is what they are doing has no bearing whatsoever on the problem.

Bump stocks first entered the general gun-grabber vernacular in the aftermath of the amazingly unreported slaughter of 58 people by Steven Paddock from his suite in the Mandalay Bay.

A bump stock, simply put, uses the recoil of a semi-automatic weapon to allow it to continue the firing cycle by the device pulling the trigger rather than the shooter’s finger. Go to 5:00 for an up-close of the device in action.

I think of this as analogous to the comic book gunfighter “fanning” a six-gun

Or Chuck Connors

Anyway, because bump stocks sound scary and most people don’t know squat about them and WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!1! the Trump Administration’s BATFE has decided to administratively ban them. This is a desperate move that will probably not survive any kind of legal challenge involving non-comatose attorneys and sufficient resources.

The final rule defines “bump-stock-type devices” as “machineguns” under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 “because such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.” That understanding of the law contradicts the plain language of the NFA, the position repeatedly taken by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) during the Obama administration, and the interpretation endorsed by both supporters and opponents of a legislative ban.

The NFA defines a machine gun as “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.” A bump stock harnesses recoil energy to make a rifle slide back after it is fired, resetting the trigger. If the shooter maintains forward pressure on the barrel, the trigger will bump against his stationary finger, causing the gun to fire again, and so on. This technique increases the rate of fire, but the rifle is still shooting just one round for each function of the trigger.

The Justice Department had to find a way around the clear meaning of the law because the president promised to ban bump stocks by administrative fiat after they were used by the perpetrator of an attack that killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year. The DOJ accomplished that trick by defining “a single function of the trigger” as “a single pull of the trigger” and defining pull to exclude what happens during bump fire. According to this account, when the trigger is activated by bumping against the trigger finger, that is not, contrary to logic and appearances, a “function of the trigger.”

Another problem for DOJ was that a rifle equipped with a bump stock does not operate “automatically,” since the shooter has to maintain “constant forward pressure with the non-trigger hand on the barrel-shroud or fore-grip of the rifle, and constant rearward pressure on the device’s extension ledge with the shooter’s trigger finger,” as the rule notes. The Justice Department resolved that difficulty by treating the shooter as part of the rifle mechanism.

But, as always, the devil is in the details:

And there are a horde of demonic imps in this one:

Senior DOJ officials told reporters it would become a felony to own a bump-stock within 90 days of the new rule’s publication. They estimated March 21, 2019, would be the deadline for the public to turn in or destroy their bump stocks. The officials said they would prosecute those who do not comply with that deadline.

DOJ officials could not explain the apparent contradiction further during the call with reporters. When asked why it believed the determination only applied to bump stocks and not any semiautomatic firearm capable of bump fire even without the specialized stocks, the officials couldn’t explain other than to say the agency only examined the question of the legality of the stocks and not the shooting technique itself.

“The rule addresses bump-stock type devices,” a senior official said. “It does not extend to firing techniques that are accomplished without mechanical devices such as a bump stock.”

Since the rule reclassifies bump-fire stocks as machinegun parts and the Firearm Owners Protection Act makes the possession of any machineguns or parts used to convert firearms into machineguns illegal unless they were registered before 1986—well before bump stocks were invented—it will be impossible to legally register a bump stock under the new rule. Therefore, the DOJ said, anyone who legally purchased one at any point will be required to either destroy them or surrender them to law enforcement.

When asked how the DOJ plans to enforce the new ban, officials said they had no broad enforcement plans and would consider cases as they come up.

“We have no plans to go door to door nor do we have the resources,” a senior official told reporters. “The Department of Justice primarily relies on voluntary compliance by citizens. Most firearms owners are law-abiding citizens. We anticipate compliance with the law. Those who choose not to comply with the law we will investigate on a case-by-case basis. There is not a blanket plan here.”

When asked why the DOJ believes the confiscation of bump-stocks without compensation is in compliance with the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition on taking lawful property from Americans without fair compensation, the DOJ officials referred reporters to the rule’s explanation. The rule itself claims the government can take previously legal property so long as it is dangerous and taking it serves a public safety interest.

I don’t understand the romance some folks have with bump stocks. I don’t make enough money to feed a weapon using one of them for very long and I have better uses for my money. Having said that, my inability to understand why you want something does not equate to making your possession of it a felony.

This is crappy rule-making and crappy governance and underscores the danger of the regulatory state run amok. On its own, the ATF has decided that it will fine and imprison Americans for possessing a currently-legal device without any action by Congress. This is the Trump Administration running scared and trying to act like it is doing something. This is not the rule of law, this is simply tyranny. Worse than tyranny, it is stupid tyranny.

The question is, what now? The NRA is acting like it is going to fold. This is sad but not a huge shock. It sees the Administration as friendly and an ally is will be very reluctant to go to the mattresses over a rule that affects a very small number of gun owners. Hopefully, a strong legal challenge will be mounted because if they can administratively outlaw the bump stock they can probably outlaw the underlying mechanism that makes it possible.

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