When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives reversed its position on bump stocks, a lot of people were outraged. Yes, I was included in that. I’m still included in that.
However, I also saw a lot of Second Amendment supporters lashing out at the National Rifle Association and its leadership for calling for the ATF to do just that. They viewed it as a betrayal. The NRA had sold out our Second Amendment rights!
But did it?
Writing over at Ammoland, former NRA president Marion Hammer notes (bolding mine):
I know that many of you will bring up the issue of bump stocks. Yes, it is complete “heifer dust” to think that banning bump stocks will make us all safer. Bump stocks blur the line and alter the performance of a semi-auto and made it function like a full-auto.
That’s why the NRA said that it ought to be regulated – NOT banned.
Why? Because politicians [had the votes] and were building steam [in 2018 Congress] and moving toward a ban on all semi-automatic firearms. Frankly, I find it curious that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump stocks, to begin with – but that’s another debate for another day. [the call for regulation by the NRA took the wind out of this legislative effort and moved the bump stock ban, now a “rule” instead of a law, into the regulatory realm where it can now be argued against (lawsuits have been filed ) and ruled on by the courts.]
On Thursday, I spoke with NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker about this and another subject. During that discussion, Baker brought up another fact that many of us, myself included, forgot: the anti-bump stock legislation that was working its way through Congress at the time.
“Our counsels’ review of the Curbelo/Moulton legislation, while initially pitched as a narrowly focused fix, is, in fact, a broad overreach that would likely impact numerous types of equipment/hardware used by shooters, hunters and sportsmen,” Baker wrote in a follow-up email with me. She added, “The language which is more or less a rehash of Sen. Feinstein’s proposed language was written very broadly to ensure that it would not only capture ‘bump stocks’ but any and all equipment/hardware that ‘could’ increase the cyclical rate of fire of a firearm.”
If you recall the proposed legislation, it banned any device that enabled a shooter to fire faster. What did that mean? Well, it’s hard to say for certain, but it opened the door to banning things like binary triggers and even competition triggers, as the lighter pull could facilitate faster firing.
By urging the president and the ATF to reclassify bump stocks, the plan was to avert this bill from passing.
And folks, it was likely to pass. As Hammer noted above, they had the votes. It was going to pass, and after that, we would have been left scrambling to figure out what it meant.
Also, it’s important to note that things didn’t unfold the way the NRA would have preferred. Baker admitted they wanted bump stock owners to have an opportunity to register their stocks. That didn’t happen.
Now, am I trying to tell you that the NRA did everything right?
Am I saying they screwed up?
Am I saying you have no business being upset?
What I am saying is that if you’re going to be upset, at least understand the NRA’s position. While I enjoy a “no retreat, no surrender” approach as much as the next guy, the NRA is effective, not just because it pushes to pass pro-gun legislation, but because it works to blunt anti-gun regulations that are likely to become law and make sure the impact on our rights is mitigated as much as possible.
Be upset for the right reasons, if that’s what you’re going to do, but at least try to understand that the NRA isn’t abandoning anyone. It has opted to take an approach it feels is more productive. That’s it.