The box has, for now, been opened. The Trump administration announced today that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed the bump stock ban, a move that has been anticipated for a while. I say Pandora’s box has been opened “for now” because 2nd Amendment advocates like Gun Owners of America are filing lawsuits against the DOJ and ATF in hopes the courts will reverse the action.
This may end up being the most important set of lawsuits pertaining to protection of the 2nd Amendment in our lifetimes.
Before I get into why this is the case, let’s do a quick background on bump stocks. These accessories enable “bump firing” of semi-automatic rifles. The shooter utilizes forward pull on the barrel with one hand to engage the trigger. Then the shot recoil pushes the rifle back. Someone adept at bump firing can mimic a machine gun using this method, increasing the firing rate while decreasing accuracy.
The debate over bump stocks was sparked by the 2017 mass shooting at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas that killed 59 people. The shooter, Stephen Paddock utilized a bump stock to fire many rounds into the crowd at a concert below his room.
I completely understand the reaction by both gun control advocates and some 2nd Amendment supporters who feel bump stocks are dangerous. I’m not a fan of bump stocks, but my distaste for the accessories is greatly overshadowed by my concerns over where this action by the DOJ could lead.
You see, it comes down to a matter of interpretation. They have chosen to redefine the statute, which clearly states machine gun classification requires a single trigger function. Bump stocks do not change the functionality of semi-automatic rifles in a way that allows them to be fired continuously with a single trigger function. This is why the change in interpretation of the statute is so concerning.
I’m not alone in my concerns. Gun Owners of America have already included protections for semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 in their list of grievances against the reinterpreted statute. Here’s the problem they and I are seeing. An AR-15 can be bump-fired by an experienced user without any attachments at all. If a DOJ under the control of an alleged 2nd Amendment Republican President is reinterpreting the statute in this way, it’s a near certainty that a future gun-control friendly administration can use this loophole to ban a whole lot more. They can ban other accessories that assist in rapid firing. They could use this move as a launching pad for further gun control legislation. They could use either the new interpretation or additional legislation to make semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 illegal.
This is the perfect storm for future gun control activities. You have a Republican administration promoting gun control measures following a single event. What happened at Mandalay Bay was tragic and nobody can honestly claim the bump stock did not contribute to the high number of casualties, but that doesn’t change the fact that the actions of a single man are grounds enough for a gun control move that affects tens of thousands of gun owners.
The 2nd Amendment has always been one slippery slope away from being in jeopardy. This is why I’ve always opposed any additional gun control measures at the federal level. The ebb and flow of Washington DC mixed with the reactionary way politicians operate in modern times makes a dangerous concoction that can curtail our 2nd Amendment rights greatly.
Most who support this ban will invoke the progressive mentality that bump stocks aren’t needed for hunting or self-protection. They’ll ignore the primary reason for the 2nd Amendment in the first place, which is having a citizenry that can defend itself against tyranny.