The Corner

Politics & Policy

One Last Time: The Executive Branch Cannot Ban Bump Stocks

A bump stock displayed at Good Guys Gun Shop in Orem, Utah, October 4, 2017. (George Grey/Reuters)

From CNN:

The Trump administration plans to announce the long-anticipated federal rule officially banning bump stocks in the coming days, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Bump stocks gained national attention last year after a gunman in Las Vegas rigged his weapons with the devices to fire on concertgoers, killing 58 people.

. . .

Under the new rule, bump stock owners would be required to destroy or surrender the devices to authorities. Members of the public will be given 90 days to turn in or otherwise discard their bump stocks, according to a source familiar with the final rule.

. . .

Republican lawmakers, who are typically opposed to federal agencies writing regulations to accomplish what Congress hasn’t directly legislated, had insisted that the Justice Department and ATF write a new regulation. Whereas some Democrats, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, have repeatedly cautioned that such a ban would likely result in lawsuits given ATF’s earlier interpretation.

Lord, do I hate to say it. But Senator Dianne Feinstein is correct about this matter of gun policy.

By now I’ve spelled this out a bunch of times. So has the NR editorial board. But two things are true: 1) Bump stocks make normal semiautomatic guns function similarly to highly regulated automatic weapons, giving them an incredibly rapid rate of fire, and should be treated accordingly; and 2) Congress, not the executive branch, has to make this change. The current statute regulating automatic weapons can’t merely be “reinterpreted” to apply to bump stocks. Period.

Here’s how the editorial put it back in February:

Current law defines a “machinegun” as a “weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

Bump stocks exploit this verbiage rather than violate it. They help the user pull the trigger repeatedly and rapidly with little effort, as opposed to making the gun fire multiple rounds when the trigger is held down. This is why even the Obama administration approved these devices for sale.

It will take action from Congress, not a new interpretation of the law from the Trump administration, to regulate bump stocks. If the Justice Department proceeds with this rule, it will be overstepping its authority and running a risk that the policy will die in court.

Guess we’ll see how that gamble pays off now.

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