Bump stocks — like the attachment used by the killer involved in the 2017 Las Vegas, Nev. massacre to make his weapons fire rapidly like machine guns — are now illegal as of Tuesday, March 26.
By banning the use of these devices, does this new law enhance the safety for everyone or is it simply a display of political authority to appease the public?
Gun-rights advocates and gun-safety activists, along with strong bipartisan support from Congress appear to agree on one thing when it comes to this gun restriction policy.
The ban would have been seen as more acceptable had Congress tackled the issue and enacted a law, rather than relying on the Department of Justice to do it administratively.
The issue for many is in regard with the authority to make such changes. It should rest with Congress. The fear is that Presidents can rescind regulations just as easily as they create them.
58 concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival were killed and hundreds wounded after a man sprayed gunfire from the 32nd floor of his Vegas hotel. Bump-stock devices were attached to more than half of the 23 rifles found in his room.
In response to this mass murder tragedy, President Donald Trump swiftly condemned bump-stock devices and took speedy action. He directed then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to propose a Department of Justice rule, banning all devices.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker stepped in to amend and sign the challenged final rule for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) new regulations that banned them, which was published on Dec. 18, 2018.
In their rule change, ATF simply clarified the definitions of words such as “automatic” and phrases such as “single function of the trigger.” The final rule clarified that the definition of “machinegun” in the Gun Control Act (GCA) and National Firearms Act (NFA) includes bump-stock-type devices.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives first ruled that bump stocks were legal in 2010, and since then, the government estimates more than 500,000 have been sold.
The government isn’t allowing existing owners to keep their bump stocks. They must be destroyed or turned over to authorities. There is no government buy-back offering for the devices to offset any purchase costs. Violators can face up to 10 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
In the community of Parkland, and for those 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who were killed in a gunman’s rampage on Feb. 14, 2018, the collateral damage continues to resonate loudly as two shooting survivors have committed suicide in a week.
Gun control policies, public and school safety concerns have been created to go hand-in-hand with one another. The bump stock ban was imposed through the Administrative Procedures Act because Congress had repeatedly refused to amend the law to make them illegal.
The real intent of this decision for authority over Congress and the voters they represent, does not serve the best interests of a democracy. Voters don’t need constant interpretation by any President in providing their own meaning when creating or rescinding public law.
Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com