Earlier this week, proponents of tighter restrictions on firearms celebrated a win. President Trump announced that his Department of Justice had acted on his command to outlaw bump stocks. Bump stocks will now be classified as machine-guns. If you own one, you may soon find yourself on the wrong side of the law. So what can you do if you own a bump stock?
The bump stock ban (excerpted below) is operating on a very specific legal logic. Because, as the DOJ is interpreting the device, the bump stock will allow multiple shots to be fired from one “pull of the trigger,” this qualifies as a machine-gun
The bump stock, for those who have never messed with one, allows the rifle to recoil back onto a sliding stock. The shooter has to hold the rifle steady with their support hand. That forward pressure pulls the gun forward, slightly, again and again. As the rifle bounces back forward, the shooter’s finger hits the trigger again. When done correctly, it simulates automatic gunfire.
Previous attempts to put springs inside a floating stock were shot down by the BATFE. Applications were made, but the powers that be ruled they constituted machine-guns. Now the ones on the market that require coordination of the left and right hands are going to be machine-guns, too.
In reality, the bump stock has a learning curve. The recoil energy is what kicks out spent brass. It isn’t uncommon to get a case jammed in the receiver, which shuts down the gun. And because the gun has to be balanced rather delicately, it is harder to aim with any precision. Worse yet, when they are fired correctly, they overheat barrels and the excess heat can damage a gun’s forend.
The devices are a novelty for most who own them. The shooting in Vegas demonstrated that they can be used to cause indiscriminate chaos.
Let’s assume you own one. What will you have to do? You can destroy it (and keep the destroyed piece as a souvenir). You can turn it in (to the police, or the BATFE, or even to A.G. Sessions). Or you can “otherwise render them permanently inoperable.” That’s it. If you are caught with one in your possession, you can be prosecuted for possessing an illegal machine-gun. Because these were manufactured well after the original “grandfather” clause dates for machine guns, there will be no exceptions.
There is a 90 day comment period. If you want to voice your concern for the erosion of your rights, send the DOJ a comment. The legal challenges are going to be plentiful, too. A bump stock, no matter how you cut shoot it, doesn’t use one pull of the trigger the way a select-fire gun does. These definitions will be tested in court. But there’s more.
The bump stock represents one end of a spectrum of aftermarket accessories that speed-up the rate of fire of guns. There are already calls to eliminate anything that speeds up the rate of fire of a semi-auto. While it seems far fetched to believe that muzzle devices and match-grade triggers might be on the chopping block, this ruling on bump stocks will throw fuel on the proverbial fire.