Following the Las Vegas shooting, the nation became sharply divided on the subject of bump stocks. Despite having been available for years and only having been used in just one criminal act so far as anyone can tell, they were instantly demonized by the anti-gun left. It didn’t help that many pro-gun folks seemed more than willing to throw bump stocks under the bus.
The National Rifle Association argued that bump stocks should be regulated, not banned through legislation.
Ultimately, they got their way. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice began the process to decree the bump stock turns a firearm into a machine gun.
But not so fast. This is far from a done deal, and for once, the Obama administration may well help gun owners.
The federal government has only just begun the process of banning bump stocks for firearms, but Second Amendment groups are already lining up to challenge whatever the Justice Department produces.
Americans have a right to the aftermarket gun accessory, the groups insist, and the Obama administration repeatedly said it didn’t have the power to regulate bump stocks en masse without changes to federal law.
That could undercut the Trump administration’s attempt to write a ban without authority from Congress.
“I think you’re definitely going to see a challenge — perhaps multiple challenges,” said Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition.
They cited the Obama administration’s rulings, including a 2010 decision by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that found one particular bump stock was a “firearm part” and not subject to weapons regulations.
Bump stocks are add-ons used by gun owners to increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic rifles, making them approximate the rate of fire of machine guns. Machine guns are heavily restricted, and semi-automatic rifles are not.
Their use has been deeply controversial since the Las Vegas massacre last year. Police said the gunman used a number of bump stocks attached to rifles to spray bullets from his hotel room down onto a crowd at a music festival.
The reality is that the law clearly defines what is and isn’t a machine gun. Unless a trigger is pulled one time and more than one bullet is fired, it’s not a machine gun. A bump stock only facilitates using the weapon’s recoil in such a way that it makes it possible to pull the trigger pretty quickly, thus mimicking fully automatic fire.
As I’ve noted previously here at Bearing Arms, a bump stock isn’t the only way to bump fire a weapon. A ban would be pointless in the first place.
However, it’s also important to recognize that what we’re seeing here and now is an attempt to bypass the law as written and ban something by fiat. The Obama administration, for all its many ills, got this one right. Yes, it pains me to say it, but it’s true.
These challenges, depending on which courts hear them, will likely find that the law is clear and the new regulations are extralegal decrees that exceed the office of the president and the attorney general. But we’ve got to get to that point first.