Gun Control

The NRA's Dangerous Alternative to a Bump Stock Ban

The ATF has no legal authority to restrict the controversial firearm accessory.

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Thomas Massie, the Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, and Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is one of the Senate's most persistent gun controllers, do not agree on much. But the congressman and the senator both see the folly of the National Rifle Association's position on bump stocks, the firearm accessories that Stephen Paddock used in his deadly October 1 attack on country music fans in Las Vegas.

The NRA opposes a legislative ban on bump stocks but wants the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to reconsider the question of whether they are legal. The administrative approach favored by the NRA invites unelected bureaucrats to rewrite a statute for political purposes, undermining the rule of law and the separation of powers.

A bump stock increases a semiautomatic rifle's rate of fire by harnessing recoil energy to help the shooter slide the weapon back and forth against his trigger finger. Since this technique is notoriously inaccurate and prone to misfiring, it is not clear that bump stocks made the Las Vegas shooting any deadlier than it otherwise would have been.

Previous mass shooters have not needed bump stocks to kill dozens of people, and there is no reason to think future mass shooters will be deterred if the government takes them off the market. Banning bump stocks is nevertheless the go-to response for people who insist that Congress "do something" in response to the Las Vegas massacre.

The NRA has tried to divert that response by urging the ATF to "immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law." On Face the Nation last week, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre noted that "it's illegal to convert a semiautomatic to a fully automatic," adding, "We think ATF ought to do its job, look at this, and draw a bright line."

But the ATF already has "drawn a bright line." To be more precise, it has applied the bright line drawn by Congress in the National Firearms Act, which defines a "machinegun" as a weapon that fires more than once "by a single function of the trigger." A rifle equipped with a bump stock does not fit that definition, since it still fires just once per trigger pull.

The ATF has repeatedly affirmed the legality of bump stocks—in a 2010 letter to Slide Fire Solutions, which makes one version; a 2012 letter to a competing company, Bump Fire Systems; and a 2013 response to an inquiry from Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.). As the agency explained to Perlmutter, "Bump-fire stocks (such as the Slide Fire Solutions stock) that ATF determined to be unable to convert a weapon to shoot automatically were not classified as machineguns."

Asking the ATF to revisit this question means asking it to ignore the law. Last week House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), following the NRA's lead, claimed "the regulatory fix is the smartest, quickest fix." But as Feinstein noted, "The ATF lacks authority under the law to ban bump-fire stocks."

Massie agrees. "It is the height of legislative malpractice to ask the executive branch to legislate," he tells me. "We're asking the ATF and the president to do our job."

That does not mean Massie supports Feinstein's proposed ban or the House version, which he thinks would have "zero effect" on mass shootings. Both bills would cover a wide, vaguely defined range of products and turn innocent people into felons if they failed to surrender retroactively banned accessories or tinkered with their guns in newly prohibited ways.

Massie nevertheless argues that consistent constitutionalists cannot support the supposed regulatory alternative. "I think it's a well-intended but ill-advised strategy to keep this out of the political realm and to save members of Congress from having to weigh in on this," he says. "But it will come back to bite us, and it erodes the system of government that the Founding Fathers intended to set up."

© Copyright 2017 by Creators Syndicte Inc.

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  1. But as Feinstein noted, “The ATF lacks authority under the law to ban bump-fire stocks.”
    But she does believe Congress has the authority under the Constitution to ban all firearms.

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  2. I strongly suspect that the guys running the NRA are thinking that the ATF won’t do it, and thus the suggestion is just a PR move. The thing they don’t seem to learn is that there is no PR move that will satisfy the Left; so they may as well simply stand on principle and take the flak, cause the flak gonna come no matter what they do.

    1. They know what they’re doing. ATF already made the decision based on their regulatory responsibility under the law.

  3. Since this technique is notoriously inaccurate and prone to misfiring, it is not clear that bump stocks made the Las Vegas shooting any deadlier than it otherwise would have been.

    All right thinking people KNOW that fully automatic assault WMDs are instant and complete instruments of death, and if you dispute that fact you literally want to kill babies.

    https://youtu.be/w2PFY8MNVuY

    1. I like this one better. AK-47, all three fire modes, all three targets hit/neutralized each time, and burst/full auto is the fastest. They do their best to say that full auto is worthless in real life, and it’s not exactly untrue. However, if you don’t know which target is going to shoot back or if all three of them are, semi-auto is clearly the wrong choice.

      And, yes, I literally want to kill babies: baby opossums, baby raccoons, baby groundhogs, baby gophers…

  4. Look, the NRA wants to be woke on this. No one wants to be on the outs with Hollywood celebs, do they?

  5. The administrative approach favored by the NRA invites unelected bureaucrats to rewrite a statute for political purposes, undermining the rule of law and the separation of powers.

    Separation of powers? That’s so quaint. There is no more separation of powers. Only deference.

  6. it erodes the system of government that the Founding Fathers intended to set up

    That chicken flew the coop a long time ago, Tommy. The unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats have been running this country since before you were born.

  7. The ATF lacks authority under the law to ban bump-fire stocks. Period. The agency made this crystal clear in a 2013 letter to Congress, writing that ‘stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes.’ Legislation is the only answer and Congress shouldn’t attempt to pass the buck.

    Whoa, you know things are getting weird when Feinstein is the one actually getting it right. Of course, the fact that she still wants to legislate a ban proves that she’s still her usual delusional self.

    1. Of course, the fact that she still wants to legislate a ban proves that she’s still her usual delusional self.

      Right. If the ATF takes action (henceforth) she can’t appear to have done something about it and/or tough on crime and guns.

  8. The NRA has been selling out the American gun owner for over 100 years. They actively supported the NFA in 1934, the Gun Control Act in 1968 and the oppositely named Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) which removed the right of Americans to purchase new automatic or AOW weapons, a clear violation of the Second Amendment.

    All of this was done with the cooperation of the sellout Progressive owned and run Republican Party as well.

    1. That is certainly a colorful interpretation of history. Presumably the fact that the vast majority of NRA members favor gun regulations that the NRA does not is because NRA members are all brainwashed by Rachel Maddow?

      1. That is certainly a colorful interpretation of history.

        If by that you mean “accurate”, then yes, it’s definitely colorful.

  9. Read the headline and assumed the NRA’s new proposal was to make it legal to shoot people for sport.

    1. Cops shoot people for sport.
      Why shouldn’t we?

      1. You sound like one of those ‘equal protection of the law’ fanatics.
        Keep it up!

  10. I disagree with the premise of the article. I am not a fan of the NRA for a variety of reasons, but it is hard to say that they aren’t acting in the best interest of gun owners in this situation. The NRA (and many other people) believe that some kind of regulation of bump stocks is inevitable, regardless of whether or not that regulation would be effective. There are therefore two choices: have the BATFE issue a new ruling about bump-fire stocks under existing law, or have new legislation passed to regulate bump-stocks.

    However, what the article fails to realize is that the BATFE will be making administrative rulings in both situations. The proposed bill states that any device that increases the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm cannot be legally owned, sold or manufactured. The bill fails to define what these devices are. Does this mean bump stocks? Binary triggers? light-weight triggers? adjustable gas blocks? multiple barrels? Any semi-automatic that can shoot more than X bullets a minute? Who will define the boundaries of this new law? The BATFE will.

    Therefore, the decision isn’t between administrative law and congressional law. It is a choice between administrative law under clearly understood existing law, and administrative law under poorly-defined future laws.

    1. The BATFE can simply declare bump stocks to be machine guns under existing precedent, such as has already been done with AR15 auto sears. Auto sears are just simple parts that are not machine guns under the definition of the NFA, but they are regulated as such per BATFE rulings. The BATFE has a long history of politically-motivated administrative rulings and reversing its position on bump-stocks would be a fairly normal event. However, this option will decrease the potential for future encroachment on gun rights compared to the introduction of a new law.

  11. So because it’s a crappy bill that’s not well thought out, you would rather a bureaucracy define what is and isn’t legal?

    Fuck no, a thousand times.

    1. I would prefer that no action be taken at all.

      However, if the choice is between the BATFE making a single administrative ruling under existing law, or the BATFE making lots of administrative rulings under a badly-written and very open ended law, then I prefer the first option.

      The fact that the BATFE will be making administrative rulings is inevitable, unless we significantly reign in the power of administrative agencies in general. I’m not going to hold my breath…

      Is it libertarian? No. Will it lead to the more libertarian outcome (i.e. fewer restrictions on gun rights), given our existing options? I think so.

  12. Or *reign? 🙂

    I get what you’re saying, but I have no faith in any govt bureaucracy showing any restraint whatsoever.

    I told my fiancee that if she’d let me use the back door, I’d only go in an inch. She’s now squealing like a pig

  13. Damn sub comments

  14. RE: The NRA’s Dangerous Alternative to a Bump Stock Ban
    The ATF has no legal authority to restrict the controversial firearm accessory.

    That’s true, but that won’t stop the ATF from stealing, I mean “confiscating” anything they want.

  15. The second amendment:
    Repeal it or shut up.

    1. May the Bill of Rights be repealed?

  16. The constitution is a grant of powers, a declaration of the limits of those powers and an exclamation of rights. IF the government has a power to regulate some factor of the operation of a weapon then it has the power to regulate all factors including trigger mechanism, bullet load limits, magazine capacity, etc., etc. If you do not agree then it is encumbent upon you to point out where this power originates. Once it is stiplulated by gunrights advocates that the government has such a power it’s all over for the 2nd. The NRA has the laziest, stupidist, cowardly legal advisors in the gun rights community. Virtually every win for gun rights has come with the NRA dragging behind, not sure, advising great caution. I do not doubt their good intentions but they’re given over to a corporate, bureaucratic mind set.

  17. Quoting Rep. Massie: “But it will come back to bite us, and it erodes the system of government that the Founding Fathers intended to set up.”

    Frankly, that has been done repeatedly. Congress wants to legislate on an issue but doesn’t have the guts to actually write the rules. So it creates a “commission” (FCC, ICC, etc.) or an “administration” (EPA) and grants that group — a part of the Executive Branch — the power to make rules within the broad grant of authority in the enabling statute. This lets Congressmen say, “Hey, it’s not my fault, it’s the fault of the President for appointing such awful people to the whateveri-it-is commission.”

    We would be a lot better off it the Supreme Court had turned thumbs down on this the first time it did this. Laws are supposed to be made by Congress, not by the Executive.

  18. A bump stock can be easily fabricated from materials available at any hardware store. It’s not rocket science (no 3D printer or machine tools are required 😉 ). Furthermore, the Vegas shooter could have easily modified his rifles to achieve true full automatic fire with an auto sear or he could have used a simple shoestring (yup–that sophisticated device that keeps your shoes on your feet, which the ATF has already banned…yes, seriously) to achieve high rates of fire. Even better, he could have used a hacksaw blade to make a “lightning link” and achieved, most efficaciously, true automatic fire. People, small arms are not rocket science and the genie has been out of the bottle for a very long time (as it has for numerous other weapons)!

    1. So (in reply to my own post) our dumbass rulers and masters should be advised to start thinking about root causes, if they are capable of thinking at all!

  19. The proposed ban on bump stocks goes much further than just banning them.

    https://reason.com/blog/2017/10…..ssession-o

  20. All this in response to yet another mass killing. It’s pitiful. Almost laughable.

    See “Gun Control and Mass Killers” in Politics at https://relevantmatters.wordpress.com/

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