Trump was wrong on bump stocks. He wasn’t “playing 3D chess,” as some of his most ardent supporters in the gun community alleged. Can we all admit that now?
Forget what you think about the utility of these “range toys.” Yes, they’re stupid to most of you. A plastic piece of junk, good for nothing but wasting ammo. I get it. But that’s not the point.
What Trump did by unilaterally banning reciprocating stocks was expand the power of federal bureaucracies. In doing so, he set a precedent that regulatory agencies can act as legislative bodies. Who needs Congress when pen pushers at the ATF have the power to write laws criminalizing commonly owned parts and accessories?
This is a big, big deal. I mean, if you don’t think it is, just look back at what Trump said in Feb. of 2018. And while you’re reading it, imagine if it was Obama or Biden.
“Bump stocks, we are writing that out. I am writing that out,” Trump said, from the White House. “I don’t care if Congress does it or not, I’m writing it out myself.”
“You do a rule, have to wait 90 days,” he said. “That’s sort of what’s happening with bump stocks. It’s gone, don’t worry about it. It’s gone, essentially gone, because we are going to make it so tough, you’re not going to be able to get them. Nobody’s going to want them anyway.”
Basically, Trump said screw the Constitution and the legislative process. He was going to decree it and it would be so. Sounds like ruling via executive fiat, don’t you think?
The result, as anyone could have predicted, is more popular gun stuff is on the ATF’s chopping block. As many of you know, the Biden administration took over where Trump left off, creating its own NPRMs (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) to go after 80 percent lowers, gun kits, and pistol-stabilizing braces.
The comment period for both of those NPRMs has now expired and it’s anyone’s guess as to what the agency will decide. While the ATF has to acknowledge the public’s input, they’re not bound by it when it comes time to render judgment.
Again, consider what happened with bump stocks. Between 2008 to 2017, the ATF had said bump stocks were not machine guns on ten separate occasions. The matter had been settled. Bump stocks were sensibly designated as firearm parts, not machine guns.
“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed,” said the ATF in 2010, responding to a submission for classification authored by Slide Fire, a prominent maker of the devices.
What changed in the Fall of 2017? What suddenly made a “non-automated” accessory a machine gun?
A crazed lunatic shot up a country music festival in Las Vegas, NV on Oct. 1st, killing 60 people, wounding hundreds more. Bump stocks were reportedly attached to several of the weapons in the hotel room, though what actually transpired that night remains unclear as a motive was never established and the FBI report on the incident was only 3 pages long.
Hard cases make bad laws. But feeling immense pressure to “do something” in the aftermath, (plus, you can’t let a good crisis go to waste!), Trump instructed the ATF to ban bump stocks. Which it promptly did in the Fall of 2018, reclassifying them “machine guns” despite an outpouring from the 2A community. In total, 32,000 comments from the public were submitted to the ATF, 85 percent opposed the prohibition.
ATF clearly did not heed the concerns raised by the 2A community in those comments. Nor did it explain to any degree of satisfaction how a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a bump stock, that still only fires one round per trigger pull, functions as a machine gun that fires multiple rounds per trigger pull.
But again, Trump should have never been allowed to do this. EvenSen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has never seen a gun ban she didn’t like, admitted this was a major overreach by the Trump administration.
“The ATF currently lacks authority under the law to ban bump stocks. The agency made this clear in a 2013 letter to Congress, writing that ‘stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes.’ The ATF director said the same thing to police chiefs a few months ago, which they confirmed in an open Judiciary Committee hearing,” Feinstein said in Feb. 2018.
It’s worth noting that Trump wasn’t the only one who wanted to go this route. Early on, NRA Exec. Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for the ATF to review bump stocks to see if they should be “subject to additional regulations.” Maybe it was hard to think clearly in the wake of America’s most deadly shooting or maybe going this route would keep Dems from voting on additional anti-gun legislation when it came time to vote on bump stocks.
NRA: “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” pic.twitter.com/QiRFD9UesO— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) October 5, 2017
Anyway, the NRA-ILA is currently doing the right thing by throwing its weight behind an amicus brief (see below) for a case known asAposhian v. Garland, that challenges the Trumpstock fiasco.
Along with accusing the ATF of moving the “goalposts” with respect to how the agency reinterpreted the definition of “machine-gun,” the brief points out that for two centuries SCOTUS has held that “the power to create crimes lies exclusively with Congress.”
Furthermore, when criminal liability is on the line, “ATF’s position is ‘not relevant at all.”’
Under current federal law, it is a felony to possess an unregistered machine gun. Violators can spend up to ten years behind bars and face fines of $250,000. Because of the Trumpstock fiasco, untold thousands of law-abiding citizens became felons virtually overnight.
Now we need the high court to set things straight. Hopefully, it listens to the NRA-ILA and takes upAposhian v. Garland. And, as for those of you who thought that Trump was one of us, just remember what George Carlin said, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the big club.”