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Updated: Jan 3, 2019

One Year After Las Vegas

A month after Donald Trump announced that his proposed bump stock ban is coming in “two or three weeks” many in the pro-gun movement are still arguing over whether this is a good thing or not. In order to understand this issue, an examination of the history is important.

The first thing to recognize is that up until the Las Vegas shooting last year that left 58 people dead, the general public almost surely didn’t even know about the existence of a device called a bump stock, let alone wanted them banned. The shooter in Las Vegas used a bump stock, which supposedly is the primary reason he was able to be so deadly, or so the anti-gun left would lead one to believe. Although it is not legitimate to ban items based strictly on their lethality, it is worth pointing out, that bump stocks are particularly difficult to use for consistent rapid fire with any degree of accuracy, any YouTube search of someone shooting with one will make this more than obvious. Full auto fire, which is also considered to be too dangerous for civilian use by mainstream society, is also quite difficult to fire in a manner similar to what Hollywood portrays. For example the Army Field Manual has this to say about fully automatic fire, "Automatic or burst fire is inherently less accurate than semi automatic fire. The first full-automatic shot fired may be on target, but recoil and a high-cyclic rate of fire often combine to place subsequent rounds far from the desired point of impact."

After the Las Vegas shooting Donald Trump came out in support of banning bump stocks, alongside the NRA who said they, “should be subject to additional regulations”. While this is risky for a number of reasons, the primary reason lies in the current definition that federal law lays forward for what exactly makes a firearm (legally speaking) a “machine gun.” At the time of this writing, for a firearm to be considered a “machine gun,” it is required that a single pull of the trigger mechanism results in multiple discharges of ammunition. The reason that the bump stock up until now has not been under the purview of the National Firearms Act as a “machine gun” is because when firing a firearm fitted with a bump stock, every time the trigger is pulled, only one round is fired. In 2017 after the Las Vegas the Department of Justice proposed changing this traditional definition of a “machine gun” to include guns that “mimic” fully automatic fire.

As Gun Owners of America has pointed out in the time since the proposed bump stock ban, this new proposed definition of “machine gun” opens up the door for the banning of many other semi-automatic firearm accessories, such as certain triggers, as well as “high capacity” magazines. The reason for this being is that if the Department of Justice decides to make this change, there is the possibility, if not likelihood, that the ATF will arbitrarily decide that items that increase the rate of fire of a firearm will be subject to more extensive regulation, possibly even the outright ban of these accessories seeing as they may fall under the jurisdiction of the Hughes Amendment having been produced after May of 1986.

Reagan, the Hughes Amendment, and Bump Stocks.

While bump stocks are primarily a novelty item, and viewed by those serious about self-defense as not reliable enough to use regularly, it is interesting to ask the question, what paved the way for the invention of the bump stock. To understand this, we have examine the Ronald Reagan administration, and the Hughes Amendment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed the Firearms Owners Protection Act (FOPA) into law. The FOPA was legislation that did a myriad of things including a “safe passage” provision that protected individuals travelling through states with strict gun control from being prosecuted. The bill also made provisions to prevent abuse by the ATF against gun dealers, as well as individual gun owners, for administrative errors. The part of the bill that is relevant to the bump stock ban is what is referred to as the “Hughes Amendment.” The amendment, introduced by New Jersey Democrat William J. Hughes, banned civilian possession of “machine guns” manufactured after May 19, 1986.

As a result, the price of “machine guns” has become astronomically high; typically about $20,000. The reason is because of simple free market economics. The surplus supply of “machine guns” on the civilian market has only diminished as weapons get older, but the demand has increased. Needless to say “machine guns” being illegal has not prevented people from wanting full auto or full auto-like capabilities. This is where bump stocks, binary triggers, and other devices have become the product of the free market responding to the demand for full auto-like fire. If there was no Hughes Amendment to the FOPA, the bump stock’s invention would likely not have happened as no market demand would likely exist. You can see other examples of this in California, as companies innovate to make semi-automatic rifles that comply with California law. The bump stock is simply a device that complies with federal law, and allows the citizenry to exercise a capability that the government has deemed “too dangerous” for the general public.

In April of 2018, SlideFire Solutions, the most popular manufacturer of bump stocks, announced it would be closing its doors in light of the demonization of their products, as well as threats of banning the very product they produce. Surely this was a good idea on their part, but it is sad to see our President Donald Trump, who claims to be the best friend of the American worker, pushing for policy that put these people out of business.

The NRA and Bump Stocks

It has also been sad (though not surprising) to see the NRA going along with President Trump’s anti-gun rhetoric in reference to the bump stock ban. Post-Las Vegas shooting, they released a statement stating that they believe that “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” This seems to be very foolish, even from an organization like the NRA that has historically represented the status-quo wing of the pro-gun movement, especially considering the risk of current proposed bump stock bans possible effect on other firearms accessories.

Going Forward

Over a year later, nothing has come yet of President Trump’s rhetoric and teasing of a bump stock ban except for an unprovoked reminder of his intentions. Although now that the Republicans have lost their majority in the house, inaction on Donald Trump's part may not matter for long if the Democrats introduce a bill to ban bump stocks. Whether or not the lack of action on his administration’s part is reason to be optimistic is hard to know. Regardless of whether or not President Trump actually intends to ban bump stocks by executive order, based on his signing of gun control in the past like Fix-NICS, if congress could get a bump stock ban through, it wouldn't be a shock to see him sign such a bill. Our right to bear arms is a natural right, not given to us by government, and we should let President Trump know that we oppose the continued degradation of our 2nd Amendment rights. Please contact President Trump, and let him know you oppose the bump stock ban by using this page. You can also find your congressman here and let them know you oppose banning bump stocks even if it is done legislatively which is more than likely now that the Democrats hold a majority in the house.

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