Free Minds & Free Markets

Trump Plans to Ban Bump Stocks by Administrative Fiat

Since the accessories are legal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is helping the president rewrite the law.

Slide Fire SolutionsSlide Fire SolutionsToday President Trump said he plans to prohibit bump stocks by executive order, notwithstanding the lack of legal authority to impose such an administrative ban. "We can do that with an executive order," Trump told Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). "I'm going to write the bump stock, essentially, write it out. So you won't have to worry about bump stock[s]. Shortly that will be gone." Trump's determination to ban bump stocks by administrative fiat is a blatantly political attack on the rule of law that conservatives would have immediately condemned as such if Barack Obama had attempted it.

Bump stocks are accessories that increase a rifle's rate of fire by harnessing recoil energy to help the shooter slide the weapon back and forth against his trigger finger. Previously an obscure novelty, they became notorious after they were used in the mass shooting that killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year. People who had never heard of bump stocks before, including conservatives who are otherwise leery of gun control, were suddenly clamoring for a ban. Even the National Rifle Association seemed to favor a ban, urging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to "immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law." Talk of banning bump stocks picked up again after this month's mass shooting at a high school in Florida, although that attack did not involve bump stocks.

While bump stocks became a bête noire of the anti-gun movement only recently, they were never the sort of product that gun controllers would happily tolerate. It is therefore telling that the Obama administration, which was much less supportive of gun rights than the Trump administration, never tried to restrict bump stocks. To the contrary, the ATF during the Obama administration repeatedly affirmed their legality—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."

Trump is unfazed by the ATF's legal logic. He wants to ban bump stocks as a symbolic gesture against mass shootings and instructed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to find a way. "We will have an announcement on that soon," Sessions said yesterday while addressing the National Association of Attorneys General. "We believe in that, and we have had to deal with previous ATF legal opinions, but our top people in the Department of Justice have believed for some time that we can through regulatory process not allow the bump stock to convert a weapon from a semiautomatic to a fully automatic."

The problem, as the ATF pointed out, is that bump stocks don't "convert a weapon from a semiautomatic to a fully automatic." If they did, the result would be a machine gun, which cannot be legally produced for civilians. But the National Firearms Act 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.

Are there creative ways to overcome this difficulty? Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Adler suggested a few possibilities last week at The Volokh Conspiracy. "These arguments are clever, but perhaps too clever, as they take liberties with the relevant statutory text," he wrote. "If the Justice Department goes forward, and the new interpretation is challenged, these arguments might hold up in federal court, but it's a calculated risk. If the Administration truly wants to see bump stocks treated like those devices that do convert semi-automatics into machine guns, the safer and more direct route is to seek action by Congress."

The route Trump has chosen is not just indirect and uncertain; it is dishonest and unprincipled. Sessions presents himself as a law-and-order conservative, keen to enforce federal statutes and defend the Constitution, which includes respecting the separation of powers. As Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), leader of the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus, pointed out during the last debate about an adminstrative ban on bump stocks, "It is the height of legislative malpractice to ask the executive branch to legislate. We're asking the ATF and the president to do our job."

Instead of upholding the law as written by Congress, Sessions is twisting it to fit his boss's political agenda. Trump needs a concession to "common-sense gun control" that won't alienate the NRA. Sessions is determined to give him one, no matter what the law says.

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  • Hugh Akston||


  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I certainly don't take any joy from this, Trump has been back and forth for me as far as quality goes. I'm just always curious to see how people twist themselves to make this a good thing.

    My guess: Trump is doing this as a symbolic concession so that real gun control doesn't take hold.

  • GILMORE™||

    I think its probably stupid as a 'red herring'/stalking-horse move

    better, frankly, would be to let the Dems try and campaign on gun-control. Dare them to, even.

    it would be mid-term suicide

  • DiegoF||

    Hopefully he drags his feet. If he uses the regular rulemaking process it will stretch out for years. But I understand it's very vulnerable to being overturned--probably especially if it's rushed. If this avoids a statute I like the strategy. But, like I've been saying, I think anything but a full-throated "No, this is bullshit. These are false premises and mass shootings are a moral panic" is a serious strategic mistake in at least the long term.

    I have never seen any reason Trump has earned my trust on this point, but since I agree he is an unusually forthright say-whatever bullshitter I will take John and Ken's suggestions and wait patiently for action.

  • gormadoc||

    I bet you that somebody will refer to "4D chess" by the end of the day tomorrow.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The "n"th D chess is that Trump is going to get lefties to contribute money to his campaign.

    Hahha. They are going to contribute millions in the hope that he might enact gun control and then he will use that to get reelected.

    This is going to be great trolling by Trump.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Funny, the lefties love Trump now.

    Haha. You lefties are getting played so bad.


    Says the guy with orange spooj dripping from the corner of his mouth.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Trump's spooge dripping from YOUR mouths and you crying a the same time will be priceless.

  • gclancy51||

    "Funny, the lefties love Trump now"

    You've never actually met a leftie nor left your echo chamber, have you?

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Oh, look Harriet, another dead thread-fucking troll.....

  • gclancy51||

    Can't play nice?

  • Nige||

    Oh yeah, the lefties are gonna get taken in by this so hard, wow, it's like they're TOTALLY getting taken in by this oh man he's got 'em all fooled with this move how does he do it it's amazing

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Trump to Obama (cue the "West Side Story" soundtrack): "Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you ; No you can't ; Yes I can.......".

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Wrong play/movie. It's from Annie Get Your Gun.

  • Jerryskids||

    we can through regulatory process not allow the bump stock to convert a weapon from a semiautomatic to a fully automatic

    Well, there you go - all you need is for the ATF to take another look at the bump stocks and determine that they were in error when they said that bump stocks weren't an illegal conversion of semi- to full auto. Kind of the way the EPA determines they were mistaken in a rules interpretation after many years and issues a revised interpretation. A new rule requires notice and hearing, the whole "due process" thing, whereas merely revising the interpretation of an existing rule doesn't require any of that due process nonsense. Same way a new law requires Congressional action whereas a new interpretation of an existing law is a matter of executive discretion. "Stroke of the pen, law of the land" you might say.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    we can through regulatory process not allow the bump stock to convert a weapon from a semiautomatic to a fully automatic

    No need. A bump stock doesn't convert a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic one.

  • Longtobefree||

    It does if BATFE says it does.

  • PubliusVA||

    "I don't know what you mean by 'glory'," Alice said.

    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't- till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"

    "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less."

    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master-that's all."

  • GILMORE™||

    ""The route Trump has chosen is not just indirect and uncertain; it is dishonest and unprincipled. ""

    For all anyone knows, this is something recommended to him by the NRA, who thinks it would be a slam-dunk to overturn in court, and set a precedent against future attempts at the same (which might be harder to undue)

    Or maybe (more likely) he's just handwaving because he loves to blurt out whatever feels right at the moment.

  • GILMORE™||

    "undue" = undo

    @#*$&@ spell check

  • ||

    For all anyone knows, this is something recommended to him by the NRA, who thinks it would be a slam-dunk to overturn in court, and set a precedent against future attempts at the same (which might be harder to undue)

    Or maybe (more likely) he's just handwaving because he loves to blurt out whatever feels right at the moment.

    I certainly wouldn't put money on it, but it would be a freaking coup if he put the stalemate on the DACA EO and this EO into a hat an pulled out a rabbit.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Let's here it Trump supporters... defend THIS move!

    What is it that the Republican party stands for again?

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    On I see. The n dimensional chess defense is preferred on this issue.

    n can equal 0 or 1 too I guess

  • GILMORE™||

    fwiw, i voted for Gay Jay.

    And here's a hot take: gay jay probably would have had an even stupider idea. I voted for him anyway, because i mostly vote to keep the worse people out.

  • ||

    And here's a hot take: gay jay probably would have had an even stupider idea.

    He did. Bill Weld.

  • GILMORE™||


    I was remembering that they both said some retarded, waffling things about guns, but Weld had a long history of being a serious grabber, and he didn't water it down at all.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, Weld totally sucked and Gay Jay was not all that great but I voted for him as well because I wasn't voting for tweedledum or tweedledee so might as well show support for the libertarian party.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    "Hillary would have been worse"

  • GILMORE™||

    Far worse. The gun grabbers would have the supreme court ready to gut the 2nd.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Ready??? They would have had a year to shore up ObamaCare and utterly gut the 2nd Amendment.

    It would be nice if Reason did an article on how bad off we would be right now if Hillary was president based on what she said she would do and the things we know she does in power.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Yep. If Hillary had won the election, the GOP could have tried to put Merrick Garland on SCOTUS before Hillary was inaugurated. The Democrats would have laughably voted against Garland so that the Harridan could have picked Obama or some other far left loon.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I like how Hillary was referred to as "the lesser of two evils". On what grounds?

  • GILMORE™||

    ""Hillary was referred to as "the lesser of two evils". "

    by whom?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Something I heard all over the place during the 2016 election-- I believe PJ O'Rourke intimated as much.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||


  • Brett Bellmore||

    I thought of her as more the "lesion of two evils", except, of course, it was really more than two.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Evil dictator with media criticizing their every move vs evil dictator with media propaganda support?

  • DiegoF||

    i voted for Gay Jay.

    Whoa. Mind = blown. I did not see that coming. Well...Manhattan. But still.

  • GILMORE™||

    Are you talking to me? I live(d) in brooklyn @ the time. why is that at all surprising?

  • DiegoF||

    Not that it really mattered who you voted for, if anyone, of course. I just figured you for a harder line disgusted-with-GayJay type, and a what the fuck I'll roll the dice type with respect to that crazy bastard Trump. I guess mind-blown is really much too strong given how little it matters; I just thought you would have been hardline anti-GayJay and at the same time relatively forgiving of Trump so would have voted for him.

  • GILMORE™||

    ""I just figured you for a harder line disgusted-with-GayJay type, and a what the fuck I'll roll the dice type""'

    I'm not really familiar with these "types". I don't think 'who a person votes for' is necessarily the strongest indicator of personal-character.

    as for disliking Gay Jay, i did very much and said so often. I also think the way Reason tried polishing his turdier-aspects was pretty thin-gruel.

    The fact he couldn't do better than 3% of the popular vote in a year where both candidates were widely reviled by many people in their own parties should be proof of how shitty he really was. I'd think that the libertarian party might have learned that, 'trying to be some 'lite' version of Demopublican' is not the path to success, but given the tack that Cato and the LP took in 2017, it seems like they're just all doubling down on this stupidity.

    As for why i voted for gay jay - the fact i lived in NY was certainly a factor; Its a protest vote that simply tries to remind the public that both parties suck.

    if i lived in a state where there was any chance of it being a "close race", i probably *would have* voted for Trump, out of concern for SCOTUS appointments alone. this seems like practical common sense to me, not something that would come as any great-shock.

  • DiegoF||

    Fair enough. Don't take the "types" business with more seriousness than it was intended. You have answered the question; I simply imagined that I'd expect that a person who answers as you did would indeed have voted for Trump, even in NY. Like I said, no big deal since none of our votes mattered anyway. Write in Amash, or Bernie Sanders, for all it mattered.

    On another note, please do see the Trump meeting. I'm looking at it now and shit is crazy. "Surreal," as I think Cornyn put it. You really do have to be very, very committed to a hardline "ignore absolutely everything Trump says" position to overlook it.

    I mean, if one's attitude is: "All I ever expected of Trump was that he be better than Hillary," then you'll be fine and almost undoubtedly always will be. But if you thought any more of him, like he is in some sense not the pro-gun control New Yorker he has only half-assedly claimed not to be since 2016, then I suppose you'll be fine. The "mad genius" hypothesis really is being stretched to its limits here.

  • GILMORE™||

    You really do have to be very, very committed to a hardline "ignore absolutely everything Trump says" position to overlook it.

    My comment in the other thread wasn't really suggesting that at all.

    It was noting that there were some other people (e.g. Justin Raimondo) were tweeting back at Nick and saying that Nick's take was misinterpreting what *was* actually said. I don't know (or really care) which version is 'truer', just that the media doesn't have a history of charitable interpretation

    Given that nick doesn't directly link to video, or provide any quote other than what other journalists were paraphrasing,... its not really the best look when you're trying to gin up outrage.

    (apparently there was video some @ some other site; my point was not so much that "no one knows what he meant" but rather that its poor-journalism to have the raw-material so far removed from one's own commentary)

    As for ignoring what he says; i wouldn't go that far... his mechanic, as far as i can tell, is he will say whatever he thinks might be popular. As this dude points out, his M.O. has always been "throw a bunch of contradictory shit out there, see what people like, then run with that". treating his verbal remarks like signals of his deeply considered policy ideas is generally a waste of time.

  • DiegoF||

    Doesn't Raimondo look like Nick's sleazy gay cousin?

  • GILMORE™||

    ""Raimondo look like Nick's sleazy gay cousin?"'

    now i will never be able to unsee that.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||


  • AlmightyJB||

    What is it that congress does again?

  • GILMORE™||

    Spends shitloads of money on things that mostly funnel back to their donors.

    is this a test?

  • AlmightyJB||

    You get an A

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Dances with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Any gun control is unconstitutional [period]

    It is funny to see gun grabbers collectively holding their breath. Will Trump do their bidding and still be a secret Manchurian Candidate?

  • DiegoF||

    So you have confidence in him. Why?

    He is lifetime pro-gun control. He embraced NRA for the election but went to their hard left on No Fly No Buy, backing the Feinstein version over their milder one. Now comes the current rhetoric.

    I can understand the line around here, "Ignore everything he says, you know he says whatever shit even more than an average politician, and wait for actual action. Don't believe it until the moment it arrives." I'll go along with that. But it seems he wouldn't exactly be a Manchurian Candidate if he turned out to be a gun grabber. That would be as if the Manchurian Candidate went around declaring, "I am a Communist sleeper agent" the whole time, if only to bemused laughter.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    We shall see. He has spent a year trolling lefties.

    The lefties are using unconstitutional gun control to wreck his progress on the economy. People will pick sides and stop shopping at Dick's and stop flying Delta.

    Trump gets his revenge sooner or later.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Today President Trump said he plans to prohibit bump stocks by executive order, notwithstanding the lack of legal authority to impose such an administrative ban.

    Why not? Can't he order the ATF to ban them... as an executive agency? In 2004, the ATF banned 14" shoestrings.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    haha... I never saw this before. Thanks for sharing!

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    If only they could ban human ingenuity, then we wouldn't be wasting our time thinking up work-arounds for the controls that government uses in their social engineering schemes. Why won't we just behave as expected?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm not joking. I'm not sure why Jacom Sullum suggests there's a lack of legal authority to ban a specific accessory. Constitutional questions aside, the ATF has the authority to declare all sorts of vague attachments on highly technical terms "illegal".

  • Sugarsail||

    Not the constitutional authority they don't. The ATF is a legacy sin-tax organization left over from prohibition. Prohibition ended, but they didn't go away unfortunately.

  • AlmightyJB||

    3D printers are going to make all of this harrangling over features a moot point. Gun design is not rocket science.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's not even gun design, it's a plastic thingy attached to the gun which effectively makes it a machine gun. That's why it's hard to even get my blood up over a bump stock ban, and I'm a resident 2nd amendment gun nut who waves confederate flags and goes to alt-right rallies with a #MAGA hat and has nothing but Milo videos in his youtube feed. And stuff.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Well, its unconstitutional to infringe on any armaments.

    I will be buying as many as I can tomorrow and resell them at gun shows.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm just saying, ban full auto and you get people coming up with ways to beat the man at his own game. Ban auto sears, people make their own. Modify the lower to prevent autosear function, you get bump stocks. Ban bump stocks, the proles will come up with another plan. It's kind of like the designer drug problem. The final solution is an ever receding goal.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    There is already an alternative and it's been around for probably as long or longer than bump stocks.

    The trigger crank.

  • Sugarsail||

    It's not the practical consideration, obviously anyone that doesn't like to waste ammo isn't interested in a plastic bump thingy. It's the principle of banning 2A rights through the myriad of micro-bans. It gets you used to having your rights revoked and lowers your resistance so that in a few generations there is no effective 2A. It's like getting fucked in the ass really slow, a bit at a time or all at once, you're still getting fucked in the ass either way.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Incremental ass fucking.

  • Bubba Jones||

    The ATF reverses itself all the time.

    First they said that stabilizing braces were legal. Then they said it was illegal to shoulder them. Then they said they didn't regulate what people actually did with stuff once it was approved.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    they do indeed. But they seem to have the authority to declare this or that accessory illegal as they interpret the USC. In 2007, they reversed the 14" shoelace ban I posted to above.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Yeah. I guess the gun grabbers don't remember Trump reversing many of Obama pen and cell phone orders.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

  • Sigivald||

    "What do words even mean?"

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Can't use a bump stock?

    Just switch to a trigger crank.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Or a 14" shoelace.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Great! Germans rushed to ban Jews having guns because the nationalsocialists had this uncircumsized hard-on for disarming selfish people earmarked for slaughter. Now the same brand of pietistic looters is bent on nullifying the Second Amendment to please the Econazis who want to ban all power generation and make the planet a death camp. The only way out of this cycle if for the LP to again triple its spoiler votes. Once we get to 9%--the way the looters did in 1892--politicians will forget all about national and international socialism and remember the almighty dollar.

  • Sugarsail||

    yup, the only difference between the Nazis and the ecoNazis is that Hitler had a "Jewish problem" and the ecoNazis have a "human problem".....hey, at least they believe in equality! When reducing your carbon footprint turns into just reducing footprints, we're all in trouble.

  • Longtobefree||

    Maybe your search engine is not effective. German gun control is not on the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

    The general disarming of citizens and a generic gun law was imposed by the Allies after World War I. The law was introduced by the Weimar Republic; actual enforcement was not stringent, and there was no general disarmament immediately after the war. After incidents including the 1920 Kapp Putsch and the 1922 assassination of Walther Rathenau, the law was enforced more strictly.

    So it's on the British, French, and Americans.

  • Sugarsail||

    We should ban the word "communism" because it has killed so many over the decades. No one needs to use the word "communism", and if they do we'll sell them a permit to use it. It's just one word after all...

    Maybe we should ban the word "fuck" because it really offends a lot of people. No one needs to use the word "fuck" so it's a reasonable bit of legislation...

    Now that I think of it we should bad the phrase "God damn" because religious people get offended. No one really needs to use that word and there are so many safer expletives to use that are far less offensive....

  • Longtobefree||

    We don't need to ban specific words, that would be against the first amendment. We just need reasonable speech control. And a speech permit. For administrative simplicity, in true Libertarian form, we could just make any permit related to any part of the bill of rights apply to all parts of the bill of rights. That way, things stay more at the state and local level where the administrative process is already in place. The only federal involvement would be 'speech of mass dissemination', treated like an explosives of machine gun. You know, things like web posts seen by more than 5 people, Speeches or other performances to an audience of 99 or more individuals, that sort of thing.
    So if you want fourth amendment rights against asset forfeiture, you can use your concealed carry permit. If you want to go to church, you can get a worship permit. And so forth. By modeling the restrictions on any other freedom on the 'common sense' infringements of the second amendment, we avoid those silly arguments about rule of law, constitutional rights, and all that rot.

  • buybuydandavis||

    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."

    Machine guns are treated differently than semi autos, by law. The classification of guns modified by bump stocks, whether autos or semi-autos, is not handled by any law. As above, it was an administrative ruling. It can be ruled the other way too. And it's reasonable to rule the other way. The whole point of bump stocks are to get automatic fire out of a semi-auto. Pretending otherwise is too cute by half.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    " The classification of guns modified by bump stocks, whether autos or semi-autos, is not handled by any law."

    No, because full auto is defined in a statute. 26 U.S. Code § 5845

    "The term "machinegun" means 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 key to understanding why a bump stock doesn't make a gun a machinegun, is simply to notice that the gun still fires only once with each trigger pull, and the trigger is being actuated by your finger. All the bumpstock does is make the gun bounce forward after each shot, so that if you hold your finger stiffly you pull the trigger.

    The regulatory interpretation is directly driven by the statutory language.

  • IceTrey||

    automatic RATE of fire


    Which you can do with your finger with practice.

  • Sevo is my bitch||

    You are a moron if you don't see the obvious ploy.

    Drumpf will issue an executive order.
    Gun humpers will protest
    Someone will sue with a NRA friendly judge
    A stay will be granted

    Drumpf will claim he banned bump stocks, and they won't be

  • dchang0||

    Calling on Cody Wilson to design and release a 3D-printable version of both AK and AR bump stocks!

  • Brett Bellmore||

    This present controversy is the first time I've had cause to doubt that Trump understands that he needs to "dance with the one what brung ya"; That the left is lost to him, and his only hope is to make the right happy.

  • SQWRLZ://||

    Been looking at these for a few years as a fun toy, but didn't want to spend the money. Well, I just spent the money.
    Fuck you. Come get it.
    I'm checking out yard sales for Jarts too.

  • carlosmendez1851||

    First time ever that bump stocks were used in mass shooting, Vegas . Coverup of Vegas shooting. Evidence stolen. Now a bump stock ban. Can anyone else connect the dots. Are today's Americans this naive?
    Our freedoms are being stolen. Everything our forefathers fought for is being taken away. Mister Donald Trump, you are changing an 8 year term into a 4 year term. You better think about this. You are biting the hands that fed you.


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