In a rather strange turn of events, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), warned her follow gun control advocates to not rejoice over the Trump administration’s announced bump stock ban. Doing so would be premature.
In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, Feinstein explained her concerns (emphasis mine):
Support for banning bump stocks is widespread, and it’s encouraging to see the Trump administration take action on gun safety.
But let’s not celebrate too quickly. Presidents can rescind regulations just as easily as they create them, and in this case, the bump stock ban will likely be tied up in court for years. Only hours after the Trump administration released its final regulation, Gun Owners of America announced it would file a lawsuit.
To ensure a ban is implemented and protected from legal challenges, Congress must still pass a law banning bump stocks and other similar devices, such as trigger cranks.
The sale and manufacture of automatic weapons have been illegal since the National Firearms Act was updated in 1986. The law — even though it eased restrictions on most guns by allowing interstate sales of long guns and removing requirements to record ammunition sales — made clear that civilians should not have such weapons.
But, the most compelling piece of Feinstein’s OpEd is her admission that bump stocks don’t fit the definition of a machine gun, something gun rights advocates have argued since the ban was announced.
Automatic weapons produced before 1986 are highly regulated, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tracks them. Despite this, the agency has consistently stated that bump stocks could not be regulated under the current law. That was because they do not fit the legal definition of an automatic weapon under the National Firearms Act.
Automatic weapons are defined by their ability to fire a continuous number of rounds by holding down the trigger.
Naturally though, she came to the same conclusion that other gun control advocates do: that a bump stock turns a semi-automatic firearm into a fully automatic (hint: it doesn’t):
Bump stocks and other accessories have made this definition largely obsolete, creating a loophole that circumvents Congress’s intent to bar civilians from achieving automatic rates of fire. That’s because the recoil of the stock “bumps” the finger against the trigger, allowing the weapon to achieve automatic fire. Because of this technicality, bump stocks have not run afoul of the law.
At the end of her piece, Feinstein came to one conclusion: to protect the bump stock ban from being reversed in court, Congress needs to take legislative action.
Even ATF Director Thomas Brandon acknowledged in a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this year that banning bump stocks through regulation would likely be challenged in court, and the best way to achieve a ban on bump stocks would be to pass a law. He said that the “optimum answer for public safety, as a career guy [for] 30 years, the law is clearly the best route.”
Both Justice Department and ATF lawyers know that legislation is the only way to ban bump stocks in a way that will not be tied up in court for years. The National Firearms Act has not changed since 1986, and it must be amended to cover bump stocks and other dangerous devices like trigger cranks.
Buckle up, folks. We’re in for a bumpy ride.