Once upon a time, most Americans didn’t even know what a bump stock was, much less care anything about a bump stock ban. In their minds, there were more important things to worry about.
Then there was the shooting in Las Vegas and that changed everything on bump stocks.
In no time flat, there were proposals and bills banning the devices, proposals that sometimes went well beyond just bump stocks. President Trump eventually decided to ban them via executive order, thus negating any push for federal regulations.
However, some still take issue with the banning, myself included, and they took the issue to court. On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit is heard oral arguments in one of those cases.
An attorney told a three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday afternoon that a federal judge in Texas was mistaken in finding last year that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had authority to outlaw bump stocks that enable rifles to fire hundreds of times in minutes.
Caleb Kruckenberg, an attorney with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan civil rights group focused on protecting “constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State,” according to its website, told the circuit judges Wednesday that bump stocks, which when attached to rifles enable a firearm to shoot continuously, are different from machine guns in that with a machine gun you simply touch the trigger, whereas with a bump stock attachment the shooter needs to pull the trigger every time she would like to initiate a new round of fire.
Kruckenberg disagreed with the federal judge’s finding that a bump stock enables a gun to shoot “continuously.”
The New Civil Liberties Alliance takes the position that “the case is not about gun control. Rather, it brings to the fore the question of who gets to make the laws that restrict the American people’s liberty.”
In an order last year, U.S. District Judge David Ezra of the Western District of Texas found that pushing on a trigger “is automatic fire, and we find that incorrect,” Kruckenberg told the panel.
“But what’s the difference?” asked Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson, an appointee of Barack Obama.
“The difference is that with a bump stock the shooter has to push forward continuously,” Kruckenberg replied, as opposed to a machine gun in which the shooter has only to place a finger on the trigger.
The National Firearms Act defines the mechanisms that determine if a firearm is a machinegun or not, and that is whether a weapon will fire more than one round with a single trigger pull. That’s why you can buy a Gatling gun without filing NFA paperwork; because it doesn’t even have a trigger.
A bump stock simply facilities making each trigger pull happen ridiculously fast. It should be noted that any semi-auto weapon can still be bump fired, even without a special stock. That’s still perfectly legal.
The bump stock ban is a very clear overreach on the part of the federal government and anyone familiar with firearms knows this and the judge in Texas was very wrong in his ruling.
With luck, the Fifth Circuit will get it right this time. However, I suspect this is one of many cases where the Supreme Court will have to rule.