June 23, 2020
President Donald Trump hasn’t been the disaster for the Second Amendment that his 2016 Democrat challenger Hillary Clinton undoubtedly would have been. However, one anti-gun law that Trump did institute through an executive action is coming under fire by at least a few judges.
In the aftermath of the horrible Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, Trump eventually bowed to pressure by anti-gun groups and gun-ban politicians and, by executive order, banned the possession of an innocuous accessory called a bump-fire stock last March. The device can be used to make a semi-automatic rifle fire faster, as can several other everyday items like your beltloop (which, thankfully, is still legal).
Trump’s executive order in effect allowed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to redefine bump-fire stocks as machine guns, which they obviously aren’t. In doing so, Trump set a terrible precedent and damaged the ongoing battle to protect the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.
Now, according to a recent story at Reason.com, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, is questioning the BATFE rule and its validity. In an early March 2 statement issued supporting the denial of certiorari in Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Gorsuch wrote that the executive branch used to tell everyone that bump-fire stocks don’t qualify as machineguns.
“Now, it says just the opposite,” Gorsuch wrote. “The law hasn't changed, only an agency's interpretation of it. How, in all of this, can ordinary citizens be expected to keep up. And why should courts, charged with the independent and neutral interpretation of the laws Congress has enacted, defer to such bureaucratic pirouetting?”
In truth, Gorsuch’s question makes good sense. If a piece of plastic can qualify as a machinegun and courts are supposed to accept that as fact, what other illogical and unrealistic ideas can become rule of law simply by an overzealous federal agency acting at the behest of a president scrambling to appease vocal anti-gun advocates? The bad possibilities are nearly endless, of course.
For now, the bump-fire stock ban stands, but Gorsuch isn’t the only judge asking serious questions about it. Only time will tell whether common sense might again rule the day sometime in the future and the nonsensical bump-fire stock ban might ultimately be reversed.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.