I was an Army intelligence officer and reservist during the Vietnam War era. I was a year too young to be shipped abroad, but I still have tinnitus from firing a machine gun — which, I can attest, is not easy to fire with any accuracy. After all, I was issued a fully-automatic M-16 and qualified using it.
My practical experience leads me to one conclusion concerning the Trump administration’s regulatory ban on bump stocks — such as the one used in the mass murder in Las Vegas. That proposed regulation would ban pieces of plastic by classifying them as “machine guns.”
They should remain legal.
Consider the following.
First, the horrific Las Vegas tragedy was unique and is unlikely to be repeated again. Because “bump firing” a weapon causes you to lose control of the firearm, it is virtually useless for criminals seeking to get media attention.
Second, federal law (26 U.S.C. 5845(b)) defines a “machine gun” to be a firearm which discharges more than one round with the single function of a trigger. “Bump firing” is fast, but it still requires the discrete function of a trigger in order to discharge each round. If the government can ignore the statutory law when it is popular to do so, the “rule of law” in this country is dead.
Third, no one has figured out how to define a “bump stock” in a way that doesn’t include a lot of other things, including rifles and accessories. In the case of the administration’s bump stock regulation, if bump stocks — which supposedly turn AR15s into machine guns — are banned, so are the AR-15s themselves. Hence, the most popular gun in the country would be banned, retroactively.
Fourth, the bump stock ban is retroactive, with no phase-in and no grandfather. Therefore, you would become a felon unless you destroyed it or took it down to the police station and handed it in to the government, without any compensation whatsoever. That’s why the administration has prepared a form requiring bump stock owners to waive their constitutional rights. (Surely, those of us who care about Kelo v. City of New London and the Takings Clause will have problems with this.)
Fifth, even after bump stocks are made illegal, it will still be possible to “bump fire” using a belt loop, a rubber band, or your own body. So the regulation accomplishes nothing.
Which brings us to the sixth point.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the national gun control regime that cascaded into thousands of federal, state, and local gun control measures. Are we safer now than we were in the early 1960s?
Anyone who is honest with himself, with respect to each of these measures, has to concede that they are never effective and they are never enough.
Gun Owners of America will challenge the administration’s illegal, unconstitutional bump stock regulation. As the group’s legislative counsel, I strongly suspect we will be successful.
But before the ink is even dry on the paper, Bloomberg’s spokesman is calling for another gun control bill — a bill that would ban virtually every private gun sale in America. And he is using momentum from Trump’s capitulation on bump stocks to try to pass it.
But even if every private sale were not banned, the fact that every transaction would require a Form 4473 would lay the groundwork for a national gun registry.
As we’ve found out in places like New York, once that registry is in place, the government can ban large classes of firearms — and the registry provides a handy guide on where to go to confiscate them.
If you think this is hyperbole, consider the legislation pending in New York, which has banned and licensed guns, and now seeks to search the social media accounts of the privileged few “allowed” to possess them.
Let me submit that what has changed from the “safe” 1950s and early 1960s in America, when guns were largely unregulated, is the emergence of a media and gun control establishment which tries to lionize each mass murderer in order to create momentum for gun control. This tactic seldom achieves gun control, and always spurs copycats.
The fact is that, like virtually all other mass murders emblazoned on the front page of the New York Times, the Las Vegas murders were committed in a gun-free zone, which is always held up by the gun-grabbers as a panacea.
Perhaps if Michael Bloomberg and the media was less zealous in glorifying killers for the purpose of pushing this type of gun control, there would be fewer of them.
Michael Hammond is legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America, a national gun rights organization representing more than 1.5 million gun owners.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.