ATF Group Fires Back Over Criticism Of Bump Stock Decision

Shooting instructor Frankie McRae illustrates the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a "bump stock" at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. The stock uses the recoil of the semiautomatic rifle to let the finger "bump" the trigger, making it different from a fully automatic machine gun, which are illegal for most civilians to own. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

Immediately following the largest mass shooting in modern American history earlier this month, a fair bit of criticism was leveled at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive, or BATFE…aka the ATF. Now, an ATF group is taking issue with much of the criticism being directed at the bureau and are speaking out about it.


The association representing current and former ATF employees has pushed back against critics blaming the agency for approving bump stocks.

The ATF Association said the agency “does not have the legal authority to regulate” bump stocks, which allow semi-auto rifles to mimic full-auto fire.

“The bump slide, and several other similar after-market accessories that increase the rate at which a shooter can pull the trigger, are engineered to avoid regulation under Federal law,” said Michael Bouchard, ATFA president, in an open letter last week.

“The notion that ATF chose not to regulate an item it had the authority to regulate is false. The law is very clear and it does not currently allow ATF to regulate such accessories,” Bouchard added.

The federal laws that regulates machine guns — the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act — define a machine gun as “as any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting a weapon to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger,” Bouchard said.


The man has a point.

Yes, it would be easy for the relevant agency to simply decide bump-fire stocks are really machine guns, but the law is pretty clear. Even with the stock, it’s simply a semiautomatic weapon. One trigger pull, one bang. That’s it.

If BATFE decided tomorrow to reregulate the stocks, a fair question would be “what else?” After all, the objective standard for what constitutes a machine gun is now out the window, which means anything else could be similarly regulated into illegality with the right political winds.

Do we really want that?

I know the NRA supports the regulation of these stocks through BATFE and all that, but I’m not sure they’ve thought of the slippery slope they’re asking for here. Once they have precedence, they can then feel free to reclassify a whole lot of other things as impermissible as well.

And don’t say, “Well, Trump’s president, so we don’t have to worry,” either. While Donald Trump is indeed the president, he won’t be forever. Anti-gun politicians will get control of the White House at some point, and with this precedence in their hands, they can do a whole lot of damage without ever having to run through Congress.


The truth is that if you want to ban bump stocks, you have to pass legislation. However, it appears that any legislation sufficiently broad enough to be effective in banning these stocks will also ban things like aftermarket triggers. Or more. There might be a middle ground here, a way to just ban bump stocks, but I doubt it.

Either way, it the ATF Association’s point is valid, and one that we should bear in mind as we progress forward.


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