Gun owners know firearm laws. We must. The slightest slip-up can result in serious consequences. This is why gun owners’ eyes roll when firearm ignoramuses talk about gun policy. It doesn’t take long to tell whether a gun control bill was written by someone who understands firearm laws and regulations.
One of the most basic rules that law-abiding gun owners must follow is “don’t turn your gun into a machine gun.” The consequences for breaking this rule are serious.
To help make sure innocent people don’t accidentally become felons, a “machine gun” has a very simple definition: when you pull the trigger, more than one bullet is fired. If you cannot make your gun fire multiple bullets with a single trigger pull, then you don’t have a machine gun.
When I read President Donald Trump’s memo to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, my eyes rolled before I even made it past the memo’s subject line: “Application of the Definition of Machinegun to ‘Bump Fire’ Stocks and Other Similar Devices”
The real eye-rolling really kicked in a little further down the page: “Today, I am directing the Department of Justice to dedicate all available resources to complete the review of the comments received, and, as expeditiously as possible, to propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.”
That is already illegal. It is illegal for anyone without the proper permits and licenses to modify their semi-automatic weapon to fire multiple bullets with a single trigger pull.
I own multiple bump stocks. One of them I 3D printed myself, just to prove that modern technology makes banning them pointless. I did not manufacture a machine gun. I manufactured a stock that moves freely along a rifle’s buffer tube.
The buffer tube is the piece of aluminum that an AR-15’s stock attaches to. The buffer tube has deliberately drilled holes that allow a shooter to collapse their butt stock to change the rifle’s length of pull. That allows for an AR-15’s stock to be pinned into place, either permanently in states with assault weapon bans or temporarily in the case of collapsible stocks.
A bump fire stock, at its core, is nothing but a thumbhole stock (where the pistol grip and stock are one piece) that is not pinned in place on a rifle’s buffer tube. The bump fire stock moves forward and backward on the buffer tube as the rifle is fired, allowing the shooter to harness the rifle’s recoil to reset the trigger faster than their trigger finger muscles could on their own.
A bump stock does not change the mechanics of the rifle in any way, shape, or form. It does not turn a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun. Trump’s memo’s instructions cannot be applied to bump stocks without radically redefining the definition of a machine gun. The only way the ATF can ban bump stocks is if they change the definition of a machine gun to include rifles that fire just one bullet per trigger pull.
This is impossible to do by executive fiat. The definition of a machine gun was codified into law by Congress in the National Firearms Act of 1934. “The term ‘machine gun’ means any weapon which shoots, or is designed to shoot, automatically or semiautomatically, more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
I hate slippery slope arguments, but this is a slippery slope. A machine gun is easily defined: one trigger pull results in multiple bullets being fired. Defining it any other way would not only be an abuse of power — the executive cannot rewrite a statute — but it would put an entire class of legally owned firearms in the crosshairs. For years, gun control advocates have tried to conflate semi-automatic and automatic firearms. They have tried desperately to convince an uninterested public that AR-15s are just as dangerous and even the same thing as automatic firearms.
This proposed regulation would complete that process. It buys into the gun control talking point that AR-15s are weapons of war. If this is enacted, semi-automatic rifles will be on the chopping block. Not today, not next year, but eventually. How can Americans be trusted with owning something that is just one pulled stock pin away from becoming a machine gun?
It is possible to bump fire a semi-automatic rifle using your belt loop. You can also bump fire a standard AR-15 by holding the stock a small distance away from your shoulder and allowing the recoil to push the rifle backwards. Heck, if you don’t have a belt loop, you can bump fire a rifle by holding it at your hip and pulling the trigger with your thumb. Are belt loops “machine guns?” Are thumbs “machine guns?” Are the air molecules between the rifle and your shoulder “machine guns?”
Why are we even having to ask these absurd questions when we have a Republican president who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association?