I’m just going to skip to the result section. Kudos to The Trace for doing the legwork on this. For a Bloomberg-funded anti-gun rag, they actually did a pretty good job in compiling the data.
What you’re looking at is an analysis of the over 32,000 comments that the ATF received when it solicited feedback from the public on whether it should “reclassify” bump stocks. Basically, to ban them. Or more accurately, to regulate them and other similar devices as machine guns.
By The Trace’s calculation, which relied on “computer scripts to parse and analyze” the comments, 85 percent of respondents opposed the ban. Only 13 percent supported it and 2 percent didn’t express a clear stance. (I find that 2 percent fascinating. What the heck is the point of commenting if you don’t make an emphatic case one way or the other?)
The bottom line is that, overwhelmingly, commenters opposed the ban. No one in-the-know should be shocked by these results. The reason for the strong opposition is twofold.
First, ATF has said on two separate occasions, in 2010 and then again in 2012, that bump stocks do not fit the definition of machine guns. What’s changed between then and now? Answer: Nothing.
Yeah, I know, some crazed lunatic allegedly had bump stocks on some of the weapons he used to shoot up a country music concert in Las Vegas last year But none of that changes the mechanics of the system. A bump stock is still a firearm part. Not a machine gun. Suggesting that its misuse by a murderous psychopath suddenly makes it one is like arguing that commercial airplanes should be classified as cruise missiles following 9/11.
Second, ATF reversing its stance on bump stocks would open up a huge can of worms. It would set a precedent for the agency to act as a legislative body. Because it would no longer be following the law, it would be making up the law. That’s Congress’ job. Not ATF’s.
The last thing we want is a rogue ATF that starts to reinterpret set standards on the heels of a national tragedy. Could you imagine how that could be exploited by an anti-gun administration? Thankfully, we have Trump in office to hold the line (or his kids, anyway). But he’s not always going to be there nor will there always be a pro-2A president at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
What’s really vexing about this whole situation is that it’s the NRA’s doing. The gun lobby called on the ATF to “immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.”
“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” said the nation’s gun lobby in a statement back in October. NRA broadly supports the National Firearms Act, who knew?
So, now, here we are. How ATF comes out on this is anyone’s guess. They’re not bound by anything. The agency could listen to the majority and keep things as they are. Or, the agency could do what the NRA wants, defy logic and define bump stocks as machine guns. We’ll have to wait and see.