The Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing a change whereby the definition of “machinegun” would be broadened to include bump stocks.
This change would subsequently bring bump stocks under the purview of the same National Firearms Act (1934) and Gun Control Act of 1968 regulations that currently govern machinegun sales and possession.
The DOJ has released a draft of the announcement of the proposed definition expansion. It is similar to numerous Democrat gun control proposals that followed the Las Vegas attack inasmuch the new definition would ban numerous firearm accessories in addition to bump stocks. The title of letter conveying the DOJ’s announcement says it all: Application of the Definition of Machinegun to “Bump Fire” Stocks and Other Similar Devices.
The draft suggests the meaning of the word “machinegun” has been in flux for decades, and needs to be revisited:
Those engaged in the business of manufacturing, importing, or dealing in NFA firearms must be registered with the Attorney General. 26 U.S.C. 5801, 5802. When the NFA was enacted in 1934, only a handful of firearms qualified as machineguns, such as the Thompson submachine gun. Over time, however, as firearms technologies have advanced, manufacturers and the public have attempted to develop firearms, triggers, and other devices that permit shooters to use semiautomatic rifles to replicate automatic fire without converting these rifles into “machineguns” within the meaning of the statute. Consequently, questions have arisen about whether these types of devices should be classified as machineguns (or machinegun conversion devices) pursuant to section 5845(b). See, e.g., Internal Revenue Ruling 55-528 (1955) (considering whether types of “Gatling Guns” constitute machineguns); ATF Ruling 2006-2 (examining a firearms accessory device that, when activated by a single pull of the trigger, initiated an automatic firing cycle that continued until release).
ATF has issued a number of private letters to individuals and manufacturers who voluntarily submitted such devices for classification under the NFA and GCA. In addition, ATF has promulgated a regulation that defines “machinegun,” See 28 CFR 478.11, but that regulation mirrors the statutory language of the NFA and GCA and provides no further interpretation.
If the DOJ succeeds in redefining “machinegun,” it portends a scenario in which individuals who own bump stocks will be required to undergo background checks and a registration process to legally retrain the devices. And if the guidelines for “machinegun” ownership hold true, owners of bump stocks would also have to be fingerprinted, photographed, and pay a $200 tax to the federal government.
Barack Obama’s ATF approved bump stocks for sale in 2010, noting that they do not convert semiautomatics into fully automatic weapons. Rather, they recognized bump stocks as an accessory that allowed a gun owner to mimic full auto in short bursts, without actually changing (or converting) the action of the firearm.
The DOJ’s redefinition push portends an end around the ATF’s finding, whereby devices that do not convert semiautomatics into automatics will be considered conversion devices nonetheless.
AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.