California AG's Press Release May Well Have Been Illegal

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)

To say bump stocks are controversial is a bit of an understatement. Ever since Las Vegas, they’ve been a near constant focus of anti-gun politicians and are getting remarkably little backing by pro-gun forces. In fact, anti-bump stock legislation is likely to die not because of the banning of bump stocks, but because the language of the bill is so overly broad that it would ban any number of other things that do nothing to simulate bump fire.


Yet in California, the attorney general may have decided to skip all the rigamarole involved in new laws.

In response to an October 19th news release from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, wherein he proclaimed gun parts like “bump stocks” to be illegal without any statutory authority, Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) is firing back, calling his statements “disingenuous at best and probably illegal.”

Not only is Attorney General Becerra’s so-called ‘news release’ inaccurate and misleading,” said FPC President Brandon Combs, “it is almost certainly an illegal underground regulation.”

The State’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL), the agency which oversees the regulatory process, says on its Web site that if “a state agency issues, utilizes, enforces, or attempts to enforce a rule without following the APA when it is required to, the rule is called an ‘underground regulation’.” OAL continues: “State agencies are prohibited from enforcing underground regulations.”

“If the Attorney General and his Department of Justice [DOJ] would like to regulate ‘bump stocks’ they may attempt to do so through the normal process that requires public comment and oversight,” explained Combs.

“This appears to be one more example of the Attorney General and his anti-gun DOJ banning guns and gun parts by executive fiat rather than following the rule of law and the constitutions he swore an oath to uphold.”


The problem is the law’s definitions. Basically, the law says that anyone who has, makes, lends, gives, or sells “any multiburst trigger activator” can be punished by a misdemeanor or a felony. Where it gets tricky is that the same law defines a “multiburst trigger activator” as either a “device designed or redesigned to be attached to a semiautomatic firearm, which allows the firearm to discharge two or more shots in a burst by activating the device”  or a “manual or power-driven trigger activating device constructed and designed so that when attached to a semiautomatic firearm it increases the rate of fire of that firearm.”

Neither of those accurately describes a bump stock. After all, there’s no “activation” to it, except maybe pulling the trigger the first time. Whether a court would support that as a valid definition remains to be seen.

Yet that didn’t stop Becerra from outright declaring them illegal, essentially creating legislation by fiat.

Anyone who looks at this from an unbiased perspective should be able to see the problem with this. It’s why the BATFE has refused to reclassify bump stocks in the first place. The law is written one way, and that’s the basis for which judgments on legality should be based, not a public sentiment or political expediency.


I’m not an attorney, but I suspect Becerra will have a challenge on his hands, and he won’t like the results.

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