December 20, 2018
By Jim Grant
Yesterday, the US Department of Justice confirmed rumors surrounding a potential ban on bump fire stocks like the SlideFire. These rumors first began surfacing in the wake of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, where gunman Stephen Paddock used multiple firearms (many of which equipped with bump fire stocks) to kill 58 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival.
Given the distance to his victims, it is questionable that the use of bumpstocks increased his lethality; the loss of precision and accuracy of using these stocks likely had the opposite effect. Despite this, earlier this year in a televised discussion with Senate Republican John Cornyn, Trump showed his support and intent to ban these stocks.
Trump commented in response to Cornyn’s statements on a “bipartisan fix NICS bill” pertaining to bump stocks that he would, “...write that out. We can do that with an executive order. I’m going to write the bump stock essentially - I’m going to write it out. So you won’t have to worry about bump stocks. Shortly, that will be gone.”
This statement came as a shock to many gun owners in the United States, especially after Trump was officially endorsed by the NRA during his campaign for president. What came as a bigger surprise, was the NRA’s offical statement backing additional regulation on “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles” Though just this morning, the NRA reversed this stance, stating they were “disappointed” with the recent announcement.
The NRA’s statement came just a few hours after the US Department of Justice formally released AG Order no. RIN 1140-AA52. A 157-page document redefining bump stocks as de facto machineguns. Subjecting them to the same regulations as true machineguns under the 1968 GCA.
“bump-stock-type devices are “machineguns” as defined by the NFA and GCA because such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.”
Though anyone familiar with the function of bump stocks, understands that they literally do not do that. The recoil of the firearm does not automatically do anything save for slide the host firearm inside the stock. The shooter’s support arm pushes the firearm manually forward while their trigger finger rests ahead of the trigger. As the shooter pushes the gun forward, their finger pulls the trigger. This is neither the legal, nor literal definition of a machinegun. Despite this, the ruling continues to erroneously state the following:
“...these devices convert an otherwise semiautomatic firearm into a machinegun by functioning as a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that harnesses the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm in a manner that allows the trigger to reset and continue firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter. Hence, a semiautomatic firearm to which a bump-stock-type device is attached is able to produce automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger.”
The aforementioned statement makes it sound as if these stocks function on their own, continuously firing a rifle without further trigger manipulation. This is factually inaccurate to the point that it suggests a total lack of firearms knowledge on the author’s part. Though given previous statements by politician Carolyn McCarthy on “shoulder things that go up” this should come as no surprise.
While this ruling deals with bump stocks exclusively, the ramifications of the ruling are potentially wide spread. Since the only effect of a bump fire stock is to increase the fire rate of the host gun, the same could be argued for lighter triggers, shooters with fast fingers, over-gassed guns, binary triggers, or even belt loops.
For this reason, banning bump fire stocks by reclassifying them as machineguns could very well be the most damaging, short-sighted piece of gun control legislation in US history.
This in spite of the fact that the ATF ruled that bump stocks were legal under the Obama administration in 2010.
Furthermore, the ruling outlines that owners of these stocks have 90 days from the date of the official ruling to turn in or destroy their bump fire stocks without compensation. This was first revealed on december 4th, by a local ABC affiliate station KSTP though an leaked USDOJ memo.
Failure to do so could result in up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Thankfully, more active pro gun groups and bump stock owners, have already filed a class-action suit against the ruling. On their website, www.bumpstockcase.com , the Firearm Policy Coalition has outlined their case against the new ruling, and established a contact form for stock owners to join the case.
The FPC’s case consists of 35 exhibits, and is available for full viewing over at www.bit.ly/fpc-bumpstock-reg-opposition. Joshua Price, one of the lawyers with the FPC, wrote in response to the ban, “The ATF has misled the public about bump-stock devices” He continues outlining the flaws with the ruling below.
“(The ATF) ...are actively attempting to make felons out of people who relied on their legal opinions to lawfully acquire and possess devices the government unilaterally, unconstitutionally, and improperly decided to reclassify as ‘machineguns’. We are optimistic that the court will act swiftly to protect the rights and property of Americans who own these devices, and once the matter has been fully briefed and considered by the court, that the regulation will be struck down permanently.”
This sorts of cases can take months or years to unfold, but it’s a good sign that hundreds of individuals are so ready to stand in opposition to unconstitutional pieces of legislation. Given the tendency of Second Amendment advocates to fight tooth and nail against pieces of legislation like this recent ban, hopefully we’ll see a reverse of the ruling or it being ruled illegal/unconstitutional in the near future. The only bright side to this mess, is that it shows gun owners that we as a group can’t rest on our laurels just because a Republican is in office.
Stay tuned to Firearms News for continued coverage of the FPC’s counter case and further developments in the DOJ’s ruling.