HomeUSAAnti-Gunners Channel Orwell to Defend Bump Stock Ban

Anti-Gunners Channel Orwell to Defend Bump Stock Ban

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With the Supreme Court’s decision in Garland v. Cargill looming, gun control activists are engaging in some Big Brother-esque torture of the English language to defend the ATF’s abuse of its regulatory authority. 

The doubleplus ungood spin from groups like Brady and Giffords is being aided and abetted by gun control-friendly writers like The Hill‘s Clayoton Vickers, who contends that if the ATF’s rule is struck down by the Supreme Court it “could quickly open an unfettered marketplace of newer, more powerful rapid-fire devices.”

David Pucino, legal director at Giffords Law Center, said lower courts are currently treating bump stocks and similar devices like machine guns, which are banned.

“The use case for new rapid-fire devices lower courts are considering is that somebody wants to have a machine gun, and the law won’t let them have one,” Pucino said.

If the Supreme Court does overturn the ban, he said, it “would be very, very dangerous for public safety.”

Pucino’s comments are erroneous on several counts. First, not every lower courts are treating bump stocks like machine guns. If that were the case the Court might never have agreed to hear Garland v. Cargill. It’s the government that asked the Court to take the case, after all, and the DOJ filed that request because the Fifth and Sixth Circuits have both issued rulings that bump stocks do not turn firearms into machine guns. 

Pucino is also off base when he claims that the argument boils down to “someone wants a machine gun but the law won’t let them have one.” Garland v. Cargill technically isn’t even a Second Amendment case. The question before the Court is whether “a bump stock device is a ‘machinegun’ as defined in 26 U.S.C. § 5845(b) because it is designed and intended for use in converting a rifle into a machinegun, i.e., into a weapon that fires ‘automatically more than one shot … by a single function of the trigger.'”

It’s that phrase “single function of the trigger” where Pucino and other anti-gunners are trying to play games with the English language. 

Gun control advocates argue that a debate over “single function” misses the point of bans on machine guns.

“The Justices are aware there’s a sort of forced nature to the other side’s argument,” Shira Feldman, director of constitutional litigation at Brady United Against Gun Violence, told The Hill.

Brady, a gun-control advocacy group, has also filed a brief in Cargill.

“Is it really reasonable that Congress would have written the law such that we have to read these statutes in a way that we wouldn’t normally parse language?” Feldman said.

It’s the gun control groups who are wanting to read these statutes in a way that defies common sense. In their view, a “single function of the trigger” is the same as “multiple functions of a trigger”, so long as any device attached to a firearm can help increase the rate of fire. Congress didn’t define “machine gun” by how many rounds could be sent downrange in a given period of time, which is essentially how the gun control groups want the statute in question to be interpreted. A bump stock doesn’t change anything at all about how a trigger functions, and it certainly doesn’t turn a semi-automatic rifle into a fully automatic machine gun. 

There’s another flaw in the logic (and I use that term loosely) of the gun control groups. Like Vickers, they claim that allowing bump stocks to be sold will be “very, very dangerous for public safety.” But they also claim that the gun industry is already flouting federal law to sell any number of devices that turn AR-15s into machine guns. 

According to Feldman and fellow legal experts at Brady, the gun industry has been “disingenuous” in calling rapid-fire accessories legal and has sold them as “get them before … [they’re] banned” products.

“We’ve seen the gun industry do everything they can do to skirt federal regulation to increase the lethality of the weapons that they can sell to civilians, whether it’s a hellfire [trigger], a bump stock or a host of other accessories,” said Christian Heyne, chief programs officer at Brady.

“The main reason you have these is to kill as many people in this short amount of time as you can. And to victims, it isn’t important exactly how the trigger mechanism works,” added Douglas Letter, Brady’s chief legal officer.

“The point is that what Congress was trying to do [when it passed machine gun bans] was make these unbelievably dangerous weapons not a part of our civilian society,” he said.

It’s not disingenuous to sell products that the ATF says are perfectly legal. What’s disingenuous is the agency reversing years of determinations to the contrary, while writing rules that are so ambiguous it’s impossible to know whether you’re in compliance or violating their edicts. It’s disingenuous to claim that the main reason someone wants a bump stock or a binary trigger is to “kill as many people as possible” given the fact that hundreds of thousands of bump stocks were lawfully purchased before the ATF banned them, but were rarely used in crimes of any kind. 

Garland v. Cargill is a case about bump stocks, but it’s also inherently about agency power. Will the Supreme Court give the green light to ATF and other federal agencies to ignore the plain text of federal statutes and essentially write new laws out of existing regulations, or will it rein in the multiple administrative abuses that have taken place since the bump stock ban was imposed in 2017? I have no idea where the Court will come down, but with a decision expected before its summer recess in June, we don’t have too long to wait before we learn the answer. 

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