If I have learned anything from dealing with gun-related legislation for 43 years, it is this: If a gun-related statute or regulation CAN be abused, it ultimately WILL be abused.
Inevitably, there comes a time when every president is driven by an anti-gun media to lash out at the Second Amendment.
And guess what? The path of least resistance is almost always to take a poorly drafted statute or regulation which is already on the books and stretch it to do what they want it to do.
Just consider gun control initiatives that have been pushed by past presidents, such as the green tip ammo ban, the gun collector ban, the shotgun import ban, the gun-smithing ban, or the ban on transmitting “how-to” gun information over the Internet (ITAR).
One can hardly be sanguine about the fact that the proposed Trump bump stock regulations look, from the beginning, like they are intended to ban millions of semi-automatic rifles — and confiscate all of them immediately.
To review the bidding: Federal law defines, as a “machinegun,” any part “designed and intended solely and exclusively” to turn a gun into a full automatic. An automatic is a gun which fires “more than one shot … by a single function of the trigger” [26 U.S.C. 5845(b)]. Under that definition, a bump stock is not a “machinegun” because, while it allows a semi-automatic to fire faster, the trigger resets and functions discretely every time a round is discharged.
But the proposed Trump bump stock regulations would throw that statutory definition in the wastebasket. They would define a bump stock as a “machinegun” because it allowed multiple rounds to be fired, based on a single pull of the trigger, not a single function of the trigger, as the law provides.
Hence, after the first voluntary squeeze of the trigger, the gun’s recoil, coupled with a forward pressure on the gun with the other hand, repeatedly brings the trigger into contact with a stationary finger. The trigger, in effect, pulls the finger, rather than vice versa.
But hold on a second: If the bump stock is a “machinegun” because it allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire “automatically” (under the new, fraudulent definition), then the semi-automatic could also be classified as a “machinegun” because it fires automatically!
This means that, under an anti-gun administration, every one of the millions of semi-automatic rifles could easily be reclassified as “machineguns” because, under the statutory definition, it is a weapon which can be “readily restored” or “converted” to fire “automatically” by the simple addition of a bump stock — again, as the new, fraudulent definition defines the term “automatically.”
Finally, in most cases, it will be immediately illegal to possess the bump stocks and semi-automatic rifles because, under the Hughes Amendment (18 U.S.C. 922(o)), no “machinegun” which was made after May 1986, can lawfully be in civilian hands.
The regulation does not “grandfather” or provide a grace period for bump stocks and semi-automatic rifles you currently own because the statute simply doesn’t allow it.
How many bump stocks are in circulation? The Wall Street Journal estimates there could be as many as 520,000 and others estimate as many as 800,000. Many of these were purchased in haste when it appeared the federal government would ban them.
So here’s a question: How many of those 800,000 owners do you expect to trundle down to the police station to turn in their bump stocks without compensation?
Failure to do so is punishable by a $250,000 fine and by ten years in prison [18 U.S.C. 924(a)(2)].
And here’s the next question: If the regulation is interpreted as it is written — that all semi-automatic rifles capable of being bump fired are immediately outlawed, with no grandfather clause — how many of the millions of semi-automatics do you expect to be turned in for destruction, again without compensation?
Trump was a candidate who would not be president without the support of the pro-gun community. And yet, President Bill Clinton’s semi-automatic ban — as odious as it was — contained a grandfather clause, unlike the Trump ban.
The good news is that Trump will be coming back to us in the next six months, asking us to elect a Congress which will support his agenda.
I, for one, will be a lot more inclined to do that if Trump flushes this vile regulation right down the toilet bowl of history.
Michael Hammond is the Legislative Counsel for Gun Owners of America and a guest columnist for “Down Range with AWR Hawkins.”