UPDATED: A gun accessory that most people had never heard of prior to the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas may now become a mechanical martyr in the gun control debate as the Trump administration moved Tuesday to officially ban the bum stock and similar “slide fire” devices that increase the cyclic rate of a semiautomatic rifle, thus imitating a fully-automatic machine gun.
The Associated Press noted that the bump stock device “became a focal point of the national gun control debate after they were used in October 2017 when a man opened fired from his Las Vegas hotel suite into a crowd at a country music concert below, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.”
BULLETIN: Gun Owners of America has announced it will be filing a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Department of Justice, asking for an injunction against enforcement of this ban.
In a statement, GOA Executive Director Erich Pratt said, “As written, this case has important implications for gun owners since, in the coming days, an estimated half a million bump stock owners will have the difficult decision of either destroying or surrendering their valuable property — or else risk felony prosecution.
“ATF’s claim that it can rewrite Congressional law cannot pass legal muster,” he continued. “Agencies are not free to rewrite laws under the guise of ‘interpretation’ of a statute, especially where the law’s meaning is clear.”
UPDATE: In a separate legal action, three other gun rights organizations — the Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation and Madison Society Foundation — are supporting a lawsuit filed by attorneys for the owner of a bump stock. Details of that case may be viewed here.
The regulation, which will appear shortly in the Federal Register, declares that the bump stock and similar devices “all fall within the prohibition on machine guns,” CNN reported. After that, owners will have 90 days to either surrender them to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or destroy them.
Aside from the Las Vegas rampage, for which authorities still have not determined a motive, there does not appear to have ever been another crime that involved bump stocks. According to published reports, the Justice Department and ATF are prepared to defend against any legal challenge.
While the devices are of questionable value, and are thought to negatively affect a gun’s accuracy, and perhaps even contribute to jams, they still might become something of a cause for rights activists who see the ban as an erosion of constitutional rights protected by the Second Amendment.
As noted by one follower of the controversy on social media, “I always saw bump stocks as a novelty item and was never interested in buying one. But I hate giving an inch to the left’s end goal of disarming us.”
That’s what could make this “novelty item” into a symbol of resistance to any further gun control attempts, while at the same time providing the gun prohibition lobby with a powerful symbolic victory. It might also cost Donald Trump politically, because if he runs again in 2020, he will need the votes of gun owners to win.
Prior to the Oct. 1 of last year, bump stocks occupied a rather obscure realm. They were good for making lots of noise and burning up small fortunes of ammunition, but it is likely that no precision target shooter or predator hunter would use one. It does not appear that a ban on the devices in New Jersey has been successful, and as noted earlier this year by the Christian Science Monitor, very few, if any people have given them up.
In the spring of 1953, there was a battle near the end of the Korean conflict over a piece of terrain that has been historically described as having no strategic or tactical value. It was known as Pork Chop Hill, and the late Gregory Peck even starred in a film about the fight for this essentially worthless ground. Its value turned out to be the willingness of one side to defend it against the other.
One might think the people arguing today over bump stocks might take a lesson from that.