By Tyler Bauer
Earlier today, President Trump made it official: bump stocks have officially been banned. President Trump – with the help of the ATF – produced a federal regulation which officially bans bump stocks and bump stock-like mechanisms (you can read the full regulation here). Ever since last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, bump stocks have been targeted by politicians around the country.
If you’re surprised that President Trump would ban bump stocks, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. President Trump has proven time and time again that he isn’t exactly pro-Second Amendment. For example, he once said, “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” (Never mind the fact that the whole point of due process is that it happens before anything is taken.) President Trump has also voiced his support for an assault weapons ban, but later flipped his stance once he realized that his base wouldn’t support such a ban. Clearly, President Trump has never been a supporter of gun rights. This is ironic, as some of President Trump’s most vocal supporters were some of the most critical opponents of former President Obama.
So, what does the ban on bump stocks mean? Well, aside from its actual effects, it proves two things. First, this is further proof that partisans will support whatever their party or preferred candidate supports. Had Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and enacted a regulation like this one, the Republican Party and its supporters would be up in arms (pun intended). However, since it’s their team and their president who is attacking the Second Amendment, they’ll let it slide. Second, this serves as further proof that the two major parties and their respective politicians aren’t too dissimilar. President Trump’s regulation banning bump stocks will likely be praised by Democratic leaders like Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer.
As for the actual effects of the regulation, owners of bump stocks now have ninety days (starting from the day the regulation is enacted, which will likely be this week) to either surrender or destroy their bump stocks. So, by the end of March, any American in possession of a bump stock will become a criminal and be at risk of imprisonment and/or fines. Additionally, it’s fair to expect that law enforcement may be willing to raid people’s houses to recover any bump stocks.
It’s unclear whether a federal ban on bump stocks will work, though. Such regulations have had mixed success in the past. For example, in New Jersey, not a single citizen complied with the bump stock ban. Similarly, in Denver, nobody surrendered a bump stock to the police.
Will this regulation survive?
I expect this regulation to be met with at least some opposition on the grounds that it is poorly thought-out in addition to being unconstitutional and in direct violation of the Second Amendment. This seems like a clear and effective argument, as banning bump stocks does infringe on one’s right to bear arms. However, supporters of this regulation will likely point out that this is a ban on a gun accessory, rather than on a gun itself. To be fair, they are correct in saying this. However, the language of the regulation may be its undoing.
Under the regulation, bump stocks will be redefined as “machine guns.” This would make bump stocks illegal under the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which is a piece of legislation enacted under President Reagan which banned the sale of fully automatic weapons. (Despite the fact that automatic weapons were banned under his watch, President Reagan is still viewed as a champion of freedom and gun rights. I’ve never understood this view of him.) While classifying bump stocks as machine guns would make bump stocks illegal, it makes no sense. When you think of a gun – specifically, an automatic weapon – you think of something that fires projectiles, which a bump stock does not do. In this sense, classifying bump stocks as machine guns defies logic and makes no sense whatsoever. Therefore, I think this regulation may have some obstacles in how it goes about outlawing bump stocks.
Let’s assume that we do end up considering bump stocks to be machine guns. Then what happens? In that case, bump stocks would be illegal. However, this directly violates the Second Amendment by infringing on one’s ability to keep and bear arms. Therefore, banning bump stocks – which the government now calls “machine guns” – would be unconstitutional, as it violates the Second Amendment. So, if the government is successful in classifying bump stocks as machine guns, this regulation would be unconstitutional (assuming you read the Second Amendment as it was written).
Despite what is written above, I think this regulation will survive any legal challenges and remain on the books forever. The fact that the Firearm Owners Protection Act has survived relatively unchallenged for so long means that a bump stock ban, being much smaller in scope, will likely survive as well.
Sadly, the Second Amendment was weaken even further today.