A Texas gun company filed suit last week against the federal government over the newly enacted ban on bump stocks.
Michael Stewart, co-founder of RW Arms, described the ban as “an injustice, overreach, and infringement on our Second Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights.”
Of course it isn’t.
The overdue ban is merely a sane and reasonable reaction to mass killings in America.
It’s also a rare instance in which U.S. leaders did the right thing about gun control, even after a highly publicized mass shooting.
And — credit where it is due — in which President Donald Trump made good on a vow to do something about gun violence.
The new federal ban on bump stocks took effect in March after the U.S. Supreme Court denied two appeals from gun-rights group. In more welcome news, the ban already seems to be having beneficial effects.
Many bump stocks have been destroyed or turned in, as is now required by law.
Trump announced that he would ban bump stocks after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, when the gunman who killed 58 people at an outdoor concert used the devices to, in effect, make his semiautomatic guns fully automatic. In 11 minutes, he fired more than 1,000 rounds.
Banning bump stocks sounds like an obvious way to strengthen gun-control laws. New, fully automatic guns have been illegal for civilians in the U.S. since 1986. But bump stocks, attached to a legal semiautomatic weapon’s frame, use the recoil effect to “bump” the trigger back so that the shooter doesn’t have to keep pulling it, speeding up the rate of gunfire so that it’s like that of a fully automatic weapon.
So, if fully automatic guns are banned, and bump stocks make legal guns fully automatic, the bump stocks also should be banned, right? No, ruled the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives in 2010, saying that bump stocks are accessories and not regulated as firearms.
When Trump made his promise to outlaw them in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, lobbyists and their usual supporting cast of legislators made it clear that new laws were unlikely. So Trump used the regulatory route. The Justice Department came up with a rule saying that bump stocks were not accessories but rather “machine guns” under the law.
After hearings and comment, the rule was published in December, and now, with the Supreme Court declining to do anything, it’s law. Unlike with fully automatic weapons, there’s no grandfather clause, because there were no bump stocks before the 1986 ban prompted their invention.
So it’s now illegal not only to buy bump stocks, but also to possess them. Anyone caught with one could have to pay fines and spend up to 10 years in prison.
The good effects were becoming apparent before the ban took effect. From a high of as many as seven manufacturers of bump stocks, by late last year there was only one. Soon after the new rule was proposed, some manufacturers stopped making bump stocks because they couldn’t get liability insurance.
Companies and individuals have been turning them in at ATF offices or to local police. Washington state had a $150 buyback offer until it ran out of money.
Anyone who owns one is advised to turn it in or destroy it. The ATF offers how-to advice online for destroying the plastic devices.
Will the ban mean there are no longer any bump stocks? Of course not, and it’s possible that one could be involved in another mass shooting.
But the ban does mean there are significantly fewer out there, that few if any will be made and sold, and that owning or selling them can get you into a lot of trouble. That’s got to be good.