The U.S. Department of Justice announced a final rule on banning bump stocks at President Donald Trump’s request. The Department’s press release states:

On February 20, 2018, President Trump issued a memorandum instructing the Attorney General “to dedicate all available resources to… propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.” In response to that direction the Department reviewed more than 186,000 public comments and made the decision to make clear that the term “machinegun” as used in the National Firearms Act (NFA), as amended, and Gun Control Act (GCA), as amended, includes all bump-stock-type devices that harness recoil energy to facilitate the continuous operation of a semiautomatic firearm after a single pull of the trigger. 

This final rule amends the regulatory definition of “machinegun” in Title 27, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), sections 447.11, 478.11, and 479.11.  The final rule amends the regulatory text by adding the following language:  “The term ‘machine gun’ includes bump-stock devices, i.e., devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semi-automatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.” Furthermore, the final rule defines “automatically” and “single function of the trigger” as those terms are used in the statutory definition of machinegun.  Specifically,

– “automatically” as it modifies “shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot,” means functioning as a result of a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows the firing of multiple rounds through the single function of the trigger;
– “single function of the trigger” means single pull of the trigger and analogous motions.

Because the final rule clarifies that bump-stock-type devices are machineguns, the devices fall within the purview of the NFA and are subject to the restrictions of  18 U.S.C. 922(o).  As a result, persons in possession of bump-stock-type devices must divest themselves of the devices before the effective date of the final rule.  A current possessor may destroy the device or abandon it at the nearest ATF office, but no compensation will be provided for the device.  Any method of destruction must render the device incapable of being readily restored to its intended function. 

And with that thousands of people who own bump stocks are now felons if they do not destroy them or turn them over to the ATF.

Here is how federal law defines “machine gun.”

any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.

A bump stock does not change how a weapon is fired. It does not mess with the mechanics of a semi-automatic weapon. It does not convert a weapon into a “machine gun.” 

A bump stock uses the semi-automatic rifle’s recoil to increase the rate of single-trigger operation. It does not send multiple rounds per squeeze. It can just squeeze the trigger faster than you could manually, albeit significantly faster.

Watch this video to see a bump stock in action:

Currently, it is possible for someone to own an automatic weapon legally, but there are a lot of hoops to jump through and it is cost prohibitive for most people. As a vet, in most cases, automatic fire is simply a waste of ammo as accuracy goes out the window. Automatic fire is not an effective way to defend yourself. Bump stocks, for most people, are a novelty and a fun way to waste ammo. 

Personally, I don’t think they are necessary and I wouldn’t own one. That said, I’m troubled by what was done here.

The Second Amendment states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Some believe this means there should be no regulation. The Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago ruled that there is an individual right to bear arms, but stated it is not an unlimited right and said that government can regulate it (like machine gun bans, etc).

I want to set aside the debate about what it means to “infringe” this right for another time because right now the federal government and states can and they do. 

In light of our current reality the Trump administration’s process bothers me in three ways:

1. Only Congress, not the President can change the law.

This decision is executive overreach plain and simple. Even if I agreed with the ban, I would be against this process. The President enforces the law, he does not make it. This is an end around Congress since they did not pass a bump stock ban. 

The logic behind this decision is no different than the Obama administration’s attempt to redefine “sex” in Title IX to mean “gender identity.” It is a matter of redefining what the law says even if you don’t change the law itself. If you didn’t support President Obama doing that you shouldn’t support President Trump for doing that as well.

This is tyranny by rule.

2. This precedent can allow future Presidents to further redefine what a “machine gun” is.

In comparison to the number of gun owners in the United States, the bump stock ban impacts a relatively small number of people. Thanks to President Trump’s precedent, future Presidents can further reinterpret language in the National Firearms Act and expand the definition of “machine gun.”

You may not care now, but one day you just might.

3. Bump stocks don’t kill people, people kill people. 

Let’s be honest, this ban is a knee-jerk reaction to the horrific Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more. This is the only instance that I’m aware of that a bump stock was used. 

Banning bump stocks would not have prevented the Las Vegas shooting, and it may not have even reduced the number of casualties. The fact is people have used bump stocks for years without incident. We don’t generally ban things just because someone used it inappropriately – like cars or airplanes for instance. 

Also, the ban on bump stocks will likely not be effective since you can print them on 3-D printers. 

Those who are law-abiding will go along with the ban, but those who choose to use their bump stock for nefarious purposes will not.

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