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Thomas Massie's Four Arguments Against (and One for) a Bump Stock Ban

The leader of the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus explains why prohibiting the suddenly notorious gun accessories is rash and dangerous.

Reason TVReason TVRep. Thomas Massie, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, has been one of the few legislators to openly resist demands for a ban on bump stocks, the devices that Stephen Paddock reportedly used in his October 1 attack on a country music festival in Las Vegas. In a telephone interview today, Massie detailed his objections, which are practical as well as philosophical.

1. It is not clear that bump stocks increased the death toll in Las Vegas.

"It's an assumption based on a lack of facts right now," Massie says. Judging from audio of the attack, he says, "It's my guess that the shooter had a bona fide machine gun in the first volley of rounds that he fired at the crowd, and it's my guess that subsequent volleys were fired with a bump stock. You can hear the difference."

Massie, who owns several registered (and strictly regulated) machine guns as well as semiautomatic weapons that he has been shooting for two or three decades, notes that bump fire, which involves bouncing the trigger against a rigid finger, is notoriously inaccurate and prone to misfiring. A bump stock, he says, is basically "a horizontal pogo stick" that "makes your weapon less accurate and more likely to jam."

A misfire can happen when "the weapon doesn't move far enough [back] to engage the trigger," when "you hold the trigger too tight so that you never really disengage the trigger before the firearm cycles," or when "you engage the trigger too quickly, and the bolt has not closed on the shell yet." Massie says bump-fired weapons may also be more vulnerable to stovepiping, a malfunction caused by an incompletely ejected casing.

"If you spent 12 minutes firing a semiautomatic weapon without jams, you could discharge far more rounds than [Paddock] discharged," Massie says. "I'm going to go out on a limb and maintain that this guy's fetish with bump stocks caused him to kill fewer people, not more, that his firearms were jamming, that they were inaccurate, and that many of his rounds did not go where he intended. If he had been more clear-thinking and methodical about it, he could have inflicted more casualties by shooting his firearms without bump stocks."

2. Banning bump stocks will have no impact on the frequency or lethality of mass shootings.

Given the limitations of bump stocks, Massie says, a ban "will have zero effect." Previous mass shooters have not needed them to kill dozens of people, and there is no reason to think future mass shooters will be deterred if the government takes bump stocks and similar accessories off the market.

3. Banning bump stocks creates a slippery slope.

"If what you have a problem with is the lethality of the firearms that [Paddock] took into that room," Massie observes, "then really what you're going to go after is semiautomatic firearms with detachable magazines and higher-caliber weapons and scopes and tripods, all of which do more to enhance lethality than a gimmicky bump stock." At that point the legislation would affect core Second Amendment rights.

4. Restricting bump stocks through administrative action would undermine the rule of law and the separation of powers.

Some of Massie's colleagues, joined by the National Rifle Association, have urged the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to reconsider its determination that bump stocks do not convert semiautomatics weapons into machine guns. But that conclusion was based on a straightforward application of the National Firearms Act.

"The law defines a machine gun as a firearm that can discharge more than one round with a single pull of the trigger," Massie notes. "If you look at how bump fire operates, you are pulling the firearm against your trigger finger, thereby discharging the weapon, and each and every time the weapon discharges, your finger is engaging the trigger."

The proposed bump stock ban that was introduced today, which applies to "any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun," implicitly concedes that the ATF was right about the legal status of these products. Reversing that determination therefore would require rewriting the law.

"You have some congressmen right now who are asking the ATF to pervert the language of the law to ban bump-fire-enabling stocks," Massie says. "It is the height of legislative malpractice to ask the executive branch to legislate....[It's] an abdication of our legislative responsibility. We're asking the ATF and the president to do our job."

The NRA says it opposes new legislation but wants the ATF to re-examine the legality of bump stocks. "The NRA is generally pretty good at defending our Second Amendment, so I don't want to question their motives," Massie says. "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. But it will come back to bite us, and it erodes the system of government that the Founding Fathers intended to set up."

Having said all that, Massie suggests that the push for a ban on bump stocks might present an opportunity to accomplish something constructive. "What about a trade?" he says. "Some Second Amendments proponents have said, 'These bump stocks are a gimmick, but some people are upset about them. Let's offer to regulate the heck out of them in exchange for unregulating the heck out of sound suppressors.'"

Suppressors, a.k.a. silencers, provide a measure of hearing protection by reducing the noise of gunfire (although guns equipped with them are still plenty noisy, contrary to what Hillary Clinton seems to think). Suppressors are currently regulated as strictly as machine guns, for reasons that do not make much sense, and the NRA backs a bill that would loosen those restrictions. "I wouldn't dismiss that idea [of a trade] out of hand," Massie says, "because you would be satiating the emotional need to feel like you've done something to prevent one of these [attacks], whether or not it does, while at the same time expanding the scope of our freedom and protection of the Second Amendment."

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  • esteve7||

    those are factually correct, well reasoned arguments. I full expect the lunatic emotional left to completely disregard reality with one fell swoop. Something along the lines of having to do something, guns are icky, you are evil, etc

  • Memory Hole||

    I dare Massie to examine Christianity the way he examines questions of gun policy.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Why? Is he legislating Christianity?

  • Memory Hole||

    No, just pointing out that he suspends critical thinking for emotional reasons similarly to the people he's critical of in the article.

  • dantheserene||

    If he isn't legislating based on them, should anyone care what his beliefs are?

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  • ace_m82||

    Pray tell, how so?

    How does belief in Christianity require you to "suspend critical thinking"?

    I'm sure CS Lewis would disagree. Also, Bonhoeffer.

  • ||

    Mendel, Gauss, William of Ockham... setting aside Christianity specifically, Oppenheimer was notorious for loathing the rigors of strict critical thinking. Newton's theological leanings are hardly consistent with atheism, secularism, agnosticism, or even critical thinking. Tesla's, Kekulè's, and many other's suspension of critical thinking is what they credit their genius discoveries to.

    Raw emoting =/= Religious reasoning =/= irrationality.
    Possibly; religious reasoning ~ speculative reasoning ~ irrationality ~ raw emoting.

  • ace_m82||

    Basically, evidence that some Christians don't critically think isn't proof that you need to suspend critical thinking to be a Christian.

    Religious reasoning would have to be based upon critical thinking if you could call it reasoning.

  • King Lamoni||

    Your comment suggests that Christianity can't hold up to critical thinking and that if someone comes to different conclusions than you, that they must not be able to think critically.

    I would suggest considering that those people who have studied Christianity their whole lives may have a better understanding of their beliefs than an outside skeptic who has taken the time to read one or two critical articles.

    It would be easy to take words and phrases from Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand, and Ron Paul about libertarianism, portray them in a way that means something different than they meant, and declare that libertarians are irrational and devoid of critical thinking. People do this with the Bible all the time and sit on their high horse pointing to the words that they quoted as irrefutable evidence of their argument. Many Christians are not as dumb as you think they are and they understand that the Bible was translated many times and errors are expected. If the Bible was clear to understand, there wouldn't be so many religions based on the Bible. Finally, one key part about Christianity is that faith is a key part of it. It allows for belief without a full understanding... sort of like you have faith that taking ibuprofen can cure your headache without understanding how. I don't want to argue religion. I just wanted you to consider that you may not have all the answers and that people who do have a religion may not be idiots.

  • ||

    "These bump stocks are a gimmick, but some people are upset about them. Let's offer to regulate the heck out of them in exchange for unregulating the heck out of sound suppressors.'"
    ...
    Suppressors are currently regulated as strictly as machine guns, for reasons that do not make much sense

    God. Fucking. Damnit.

    Silencers are banned, like machine guns, because know-nothing anti-gun busybodies used to consider them a gimmick that would only be used by low lives and gun nuts!

    Maybe if we bargain with syphillis, we'll only get the joint pain, muscle aches, and heart damager rather than the skin rashes, hair loss, and CNS damage!

  • target||

    I wouldn't say they are banned like machine guns. You have to pay that $200 tax stamp or whatever it is but you can still get one for every gun you own if you have the money. Where as, you want an auto HK MP7? tough shit, it was made after 86.

  • ||

    Sure (in *your* state maybe). It's an NFA vs. Hughes Am. argument when I think we're both probably a 'Nay!' in both cases.

  • target||

    yeah, sorry. Forgot about the different states laws.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    The difference is that suppressors really are useful for legitimate purposes, but even bump stock owners would agree that bump stocks are not.

  • Brendan||

    Recreation is a legitimate purpose.

    Also, the bill before Congress exempts the US govt and state agencies, so there must be something legitimate about them.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    US and state govts can have full auto guns, too.

  • Brendan||

    All the more reason to repeal the Hughes Amendment.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Luckily, the "usefulness" requirement is never mentioned in the 2nd Amendment. It's a made up term by gun grabbers to infringe on the protected right to keep and bear all arms.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Yeah, every time I hear the phrases "we don't won't ALL your guns," or "common sense" or "reasonable" I want to puke.

  • ||

    The difference is that suppressors really are useful for legitimate purposes, but even bump stock owners would agree that bump stocks are not.

    This is idiotic. The reason suppressors got swept into the NFA is because firearm owners, at the time, regarded them as a novelty with no legitimate purpose. The bump stock owners are more practical about their opposition and more realistic about the narrow virtues of their preferred novelty.

    With or without a silencer...
    You're generally still going to wear hearing protection or suffer hearing loss*.
    Your neighbors are still going to hear you target shooting and complain*.
    Your still going to have to issue notice or ask permission to hunt on/around private property*.

    With a silencer...
    You're still potentially sacrificing accuracy*.
    You're still potentially suppressing recoil and facilitating faster target acquisition and fire rates*.

    Pretty much the only time a silencer is without a peer in firearm modification, there are dozens of other non-combustible competitors for the job*.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Blah blah blah. It doesn't matter; given the characteristics of the people Trump is appointing to the federal judiciary, and the alacrity with which his Republican "opponents" are approving them, progressivism is not gong to be much of an influence in our lifetimes. If he continues to place judges like Gorsuch and Willet we will have a Constitution that stands for something other than a "living document."

    Now you can get back to your pointless nattering.

  • ||

    As Memory Hole and lc1789 point out below, the plain dead-letter reading is 'shall not be infringed'. Your opposition wants it to be a living document and say more than it does. Whether you interpret it as 'shall not be infringed, except for bump stocks', 'shall not be infringed, except for silencers', or 'shall not be infringed, except for bump stocks, but not silencers' is moot and demonstrates your clinging to a dead-letter reading of the second amendment to be a technicality rather than a principle.

    *None of the above should be construed as reasons for taxing/banning silencers.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Banning bump stocks is throwing a sacrifice to the anti-gun mob hoping they will be sated. That is the single rationale.

  • GroundTruth||

    "the problem is, once you've paid Danegeld, it's awful hard to get rid of the Dane".

    Not quite precise for the discussion, but it has the right flavor. If Baal gets a loaf a bread today, tomorrow he'll need a turkey, and day after that it will be your first-born.

  • Memory Hole||

    Massie believes in gun control it's just a more permissive version of gun control but he accepts that govt may infringe on gun ownership.

  • ||

    He's willing to trade a sensible infringement for a nonsense infringement without making any sort of compelling case about which is which.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Plus, he's talking about horse-trading in this way, but in reality there will not be any such thing. It will be purely a loss of rights, in this environment if a law does get passed, it will not repeal anything.

  • Memory Hole||

    Sensibly infringed = shall not be infringed. I can't accept this.

  • ||

    My problem with Massie is petty and superficial but it is this:

    The man always looks like it's been at least three days since he's showered.

    Message to Massie, if you read here: wash your hair now and again. It does wonders for how seriously people will take you.

  • Episteme||

    He does look very sweaty.

  • IceTrey||

    If Paddock had any sense he would have driven over to the concert and shot it up at close range. His attack was actually pretty stupid if he wanted to kill as many as possible.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Unless he really did want to escape.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    No way. He wouldn't have been able to bring rifles and ammo into the crowd, let alone in the quantities he was using, would have been vulnerable while switching mags and/or weapons, and wouldn't have had the advantage of shooting at the entire crowd at once.

  • Brendan||

    There were police and security around the concert area.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Thomas Massie's Four Arguments Against (and One for) a Bump Stock Ban
    The leader of the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus explains why prohibiting the suddenly notorious gun accessories is rash and dangerous.

    The proggies will not be satisfied until all guns are in the hands of their beloved secret police force.
    Then the proggies will be all smiles and grins.

  • wingnutx||

    The language in this will be used against all manner of firearm parts.

    Triggers, ergonomic stocks, recoil buffers, you name it.

  • Brendan||

    Polishing jobs, lighter parts, super slick oils

  • PhilH||

    Expect this draft legislation to get at least one more thing pinned onto it, which will likely be a "high capacity" magazine ban. Then the bill stalls, and the left will blame Republicans for not passing so-called "common sense gun control" legislation.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    1. Accuracy doesn't matter in the situation. He's shooting into a crowd. It's conceivable that a bump stock can cause a jam because the gun moves backward while cycling, but this is a very short distance, just enough to reset the trigger. A person who's practiced with the bump stock can probably run it without any jams.

    2. The point of the law is not to make things impossible, just to make them harder. This guy killed more and injured waaaaaay more people than any of the other mass shootings. By Massie's logic, we shouldn't have reinforced cockpit doors after 9/11 because previous terror attacks didn't depend on cockpit intrusion or airplanes at all.

    3. Baloney. The difference between a bump stock ban and a ban on guns or magazines is of kind, not degree. Bump stocks were only legal due to a shoddy definition of "trigger pull" in the NFA.

    4. This is not an argument against the legislation, so why are you guys counting it?

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Disclaimer: I do not support the legislation that's been submitted in Congress, as it would ban far more than bump stocks.

  • Brendan||

    1. Accuracy still sort of matters. The amount of under/overcompensating from the inconsistent rate of fire would have made some ounds go "around" the target area. A shooter firing in controlled bursts at the crowd could have done even more damage.

    2. It wouldn't make them harder at all.

    3. Bump stocks are legal because they don't fit any legal definitions of prohibited acts/parts. A rubber band can be used to bumpfire a weapon.

  • Paint Thinner||

    Any gun or an appurtenance that is capable of making a gun fire more than X bullets in less than Y time between shots.

    Ban them.

    Cannot even think of that? Go fuck yourself, Brendan.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Bump stocks are legal because they don't fit any legal definitions of prohibited acts/parts.

    Because the wording of the law is shoddy. The intent of the NFA was obviously to restrict guns that could fire faster than the operator could pull the trigger.

  • ace_m82||

    I can pull a trigger really really fast, thanks to playing Halo way too much.

    We were doing a field op, I was A-gunner on the 240G, we were playing opposing force. 240s don't like blanks, so it jammed after 1 round. So I sat up and fired my M16A4 as fast as I could and reloaded. My gunner later stated he wanted me with him if we ever went to the sandbox. I'm not sure how many people realized our 240 even went down!

    It's not about how fast the gun fires. It's about hitting the frikkin' target!

  • ace_m82||

    Some machine guns fire 450 rounds per minute. I can do that with my finger. It's more about reloads at that point than cyclical fire rate.

  • Paint Thinner||

    I am not sure it is Massie as much as the cock holster from reason.com paraphrasing him.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The point is to usurp the 2nd Amendment and infringe on American's right to keep and bear arms. The NFA is unconstitutional as well as any government regulation of arms at all. There will be no deals.

    The gun grabbers are so stupid to spend weeks on this issue only for any law that does get enough votes to be vetoed by Trump.

    Because one thing Trump has been doing since kicking Hillary's ass in the election is caving to lefty agendas.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    LOL. Trump will sell gun rights supporters out faster than you can say "you're fired".

  • loveconstitution1789||

    He hasn't yet and he could of.

    Truth is Trump does not go by lefty agendas nor is scared of lefties politically.

  • Paint Thinner||

    Given the limitations of bump stocks, Massie says, a ban "will have zero effect." Previous mass shooters have not needed them to kill dozens of people, and there is no reason to think future mass shooters will be deterred if the government takes bump stocks and similar accessories off the market.

    More horse manure from reason.com think.

    At one time people were being killed by machine guns rather frequently. Then they banned them. And by some strange coincidence, far fewer people have been killed by machine guns since then.

    This is the same bullshit that gets pulled when someone suggests a law or some measure. That criminals do not follow laws, so all laws are basically useless.

    NOW, it'd be different if the argument was specifically related to a specific law being thought of. No, it is all gun laws that get proposed. So, yes, if ALL guns laws are useless, repeal all of them.

    Allow open carry in the Capitol, and dismiss the Capitol police.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Fewer People have been killed by machine guns because machine guns are not accurate killing tools. The Vegas didn't use his weapons very effectively. He chose 5.56 mm weapons when at that range 7.62 mm would have been more lethal. Guys like the shooter are sloppy with their tactics and it shows.

    Even the Vegas shooter only killed less than 70 people. Police still have not released how many people actually died from bullet trauma and how many died from being trampled. I would put money down that the shooter killed less people with a rapid fire rifle than the Orlando terrorist. That would sure put a kink in the gun grabber narrative.

    It's why they are rushing to pass any gun control quickly.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Fewer People have been killed by machine guns because machine guns are not accurate killing tools.

    What is the Reasonoid obsession with accuracy of bump stocks/machine guns? Y'all are beginning to resemble the leftist media throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

    If you're shooting at one particular target at a distance, then yeah, machine guns are not going to be the best choice for hitting that one particular target. But that wasn't the situation here.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Its not a topic limited to Reason. The military tries to train those who shoot machine guns to hit what they are shooting at.

    A machine gun that misses its target is not effective and its a waste of bullets.

    A machine gun that is on target and can lay down withering fire is more effective. Its why many machine guns are put on firing platforms to keep the machine gun steady. Its why the military does not use bump stocks but 3 round bursts for personal weapons and full auto for heavier machine guns.

  • ace_m82||

    Amendment: While some assault rifles do have 3 round burst, they are totally useless. You never hit with the 2nd or 3rd bullet. They are kept to semi-auto at all times.

    There is one exception, if the assault rifle is used at VERY close range, clearing buildings or the like, AND it has a full auto setting, then it can be set to full auto. 3 shot burst is less useful than semi auto at close range as it actually restricts you from shooting fast enough!

  • ||

    Fewer People have been killed by machine guns because machine guns are not accurate killing tools.

    I disagree with this statement in-and-of itself but not the notion overall.

    The majority of gun crimes and criminals are not committed by suicidal, indiscriminate killing machines with bottomless wallets. As such they tend to value engaging targets singularly or in small groups and getaways that don't require multi-million dollar aircraft. People determined to kill or be killed or who's escape can be facilitated by multi-million dollar aircraft can and do deploy machine guns with great accuracy.

    Machine guns can be accurate. Accuracy is a tiny piece of pulling off a successful stick up or bank robbery and while a military can spend rounds to achieve it's objectives it's a dead end for pretty much any/every criminal enterprise.

  • Wizard4169||

    When, exactly, were people being mowed down "rather frequently" by machine guns? Sure, a handful of gangsters may have machine gunned each other, but it was hardly an everyday occurrence. (Not to mention that those gangsters were mostly fighting over the booze trade, which the government had handed over to them by banning legal alcohol sales.)

    And while we're arguing about the blatantly unconstitutional NFA, why did it include suppressors? The criminal use of suppressors was rare to nonexistent then, just like it is now. (This is despite the fact that anyone with a little knowledge can easily whip up a crude, but effective, suppressor quite easily and cheaply.) Further, suppressors clearly have legitimate uses in noise abatement. Why is it I can get a ticket for driving my car without a muffler, but I can go to prison for putting a muffler on my gun?

  • Longtobefree||

    Because driving as a privilege, not a right.
    Somehow, that is why.

  • JeremyR||

    The thing is though, a lot of gun nuts like making a lot of noise and shooting fast but inaccurately.

    Serious gun owners and shooters would love to trade bumpstocks for supressors, but dumbasses won't

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Serious gun owners would never trade anything relating to arms since the 2nd Amendment protects the right to all of it: silencers, suppressors, bumpstocks, HEIAP ammo, machine guns, etc.

  • ||

    Serious libertarians wouldn't so willingly trade away someone else's right to own/modify their property for their own.

    Iron Law #6: Me today, you tomorrow.

    Also, I'm near certain you could modify the 'silencer' and trigger assembly/sear to achieve the same effect as a bump stock, decreasing the cycle time and increase the trigger-pull rate. If reduce the trigger pull weight entirely with every discharge, you'd create an automatic weapon but if you reduced it to nearly zero, the gun would fire every time your finger bumped the trigger. I have a hard time believing this hasn't already been done, attempted, or previously conceptualized and patented at some point in firearms history.

  • dantheserene||

    There's no such thing as a "trade" with gun grabbers. Whatever they get now is just raising the baseline for what they want next. They want the ratchet to go one way only.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    True that; "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here."

    Diane Feinstein discussing the assault weapons ban on "60 Minutes" in 1995, and actually telling the truth about her objectives.

  • Longtobefree||

    There is only one argument against the ban; not really an argument as much as a fact.
    It would be unconstitutional.

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