Following last week’s tragedy in Las Vegas, rather than your usual calls for a ban on “semi-automatic weapons” or “assault weapons,” we’ve seen a call for banning bump stocks. While most people had never heard the term “bump stock” prior to last week, the role they played in the massacre — essentially allowing shooter Stephen Paddock’s guns to fire like automatic weapons — has garnered tremendous attention.Given that automatic weapons essentially are already banned (technically “heavily regulated”), it would be consistent with current laws to prohibit the useage of bump stocks — but that’s not what the legislation proposed does. While the NRA initially came out in favor of regulating bump stocks (as did some Congressional Republicans), they’ve reversed their position now that the wording of the bill is available. As is always the case, the devil is in the details.
According to Reason Magazine:
The proposed ban on bump stocks not only applies to a wide, vague range of firearm accessories, it also criminalizes mere possession of those accessories, making owners subject to fines and up to five years in prison, even if they acquired the newly prohibited items before the ban was enacted.
The criminal penalties are especially problematic given the uncertain scope of the bill, which bans “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 machine gun.” That definition pretty clearly covers the products made by companies such as Slide Fire Solutions and Bump Fire Systems, which harness recoil energy to help shooters fire without flexing their trigger fingers. But it might also reach other, less controversial products that can help people fire a gun more quickly, not to mention do-it-yourself solutions that are impossible to regulate but might make tinkerers vulnerable to prosecution.
“There are a hundred ways to make a semiautomatic firearm fire more quickly, and there is no way to prevent them,” says Rep. Thomas Massie, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who leads the Congressional Second Amendment Caucus. “You can use common household items.”
Even leaving aside the question of how the ban might affect the legal status of rubber bands, metal bars, or pieces of wood (depending on the owner’s intent), Massie worries that the bill could prohibit products that may have nothing to do with the mass shooting in Las Vegas but are arguably covered by the ban. “There is an industry that takes your off-the-shelf firearm and improves the trigger so that you can be more accurate and shoot it faster,” he says. “Those implements aren’t designed to simulate full auto fire, but they could be read into the language of that bill.”
For example, Massie says, “if it takes four pounds of pull to activate a stock trigger with your finger, these devices may reduce that to two pounds. Nobody has a problem with those, as far as I know, with the exception of all the liberals who want to ban all guns. People don’t have a problem with those devices, but they could be read into that language.”Massie is also troubled by the retroactive criminalization of devices that people already own. “Are the manufacturers going to be compelled by the government to turn over lists of customers who legally acquired [products] that were declared by the regulatory authority to be legal?” he wonders. “This could set the precedent for a gun grab if you’re retroactively banning these things.”
Presumably, this poorly designed bill meets the criteria for the “common sense” gun control we’ve been told about from the Left for decades now.[Note: This post was written by Matt Palumbo. He is a co-author of the new book A Paradoxical Alliance: Islam and the Left, and can be found on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]