In a move that will undoubtedly be challenged by Second Amendment groups in court, the Trump administration officially moved to make bump stocks illegal on Tuesday, a widely-expected ruling that uses federal regulations to ban the controversial accessories.
Bump stocks turned into a national rallying point after the Las Vegas mass shooting in October 2017, when a psycho named Stephen Paddock used them to turn his semi-automatic rifles into something akin to machine guns. In one of the most horrifying acts of carnage in American history, Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds from his room overlooking a country music concert.
While most Americans were disturbed by what sounded like M-16 gunfire on the many videos of the event, even our description of what bump stocks do above is somewhat misleading. In truth, the accessories do not “turn” an average semi-automatic rifle into anything, much less a fully-automatic weapon.
What they do is use the gun’s recoil to increase the firing speed by forcing the stock back against the shooter’s trigger finger again and again. Perhaps it’s an issue of semantics, but these could be important semantics. Because the problem with the Trump administration doing this through the ATF is that…they may not have the legal right to.
“The change has undergone a legal review and the Justice Department and ATF are ready to fight any legal challenge that may be brought,” reported the Associated Press.
We don’t doubt that’s the case, but when the administration arrests the first American citizen for possessing a bump stock device after March, we have to imagine that those legal challenges will be brought.
We’re not necessarily saying that banning bump stocks is a bad thing or that it wasn’t the correct response to the Las Vegas shooting. We are saying, however, that there is a very good argument that says this should have been done through Congress and not through the ATF and the DOJ. Perhaps it’s our usual wariness about the Executive Branch usurping the proper role of the legislature, and perhaps it’s our natural inclination to oppose any form of federal gun control that goes beyond what’s already on the books. But we aren’t particularly comfortable with this move, even if it makes sense from every other standpoint.
Which, frankly, we’re not sure it does.