Opinion: Federal bump stock ban should worry both sides of the aisle

Apr 2, 2018, 5:13 PM | Updated: May 2, 2018, 10:17 am
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)...
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions published a Notice for Proposed Rulemaking that, if finalized, would mean anyone in possession of a bump stock could be facing up to 10 years in prison.

You see, the notice instructs the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives to classify bump stocks as machine guns.

According to the Department of Justice, a charge of illegal possession of a machine gun is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Let me hit the pause button right here. This is not a blog about bump stocks!

I have written extensively on the matter. I don’t own bump stocks. They don’t interest me. I think they are silly.

This is a blog about government overreach and our civil liberties. Once again, it is not about bump stocks or their inclusion/relation in/to the Second Amendment.

In a previous blog about the March for Our Lives front man David Hogg, I wrote that the safe money would be on “do nothing” legislation like banning bump stocks and increasing the minimum age of long gun purchases to 21.

I was right — kind of. I specifically wrote the word “legislation,” not the words “unconstitutional executive action.”

There is something missing from the notice that has me concerned and should have everyone, from both sides of the debate, concerned as well: A grandfather clause.

Congress passing a ban of an item is one thing. That would at least follow a portion of our nation’s guiding document.

This unilateral nonsense that doesn’t allow those that already possess the item to keep the item is crazy! But President Donald Trump’s administration is attempting to make it illegal to possess a legally purchased item by simply calling it something that it is not.

Bump stock owners will have 90 days to hand them over or face the aforementioned penalty for possessing an illegal machine gun.

Again, thousands of American citizens have made a legal purchase of a legal item. The Trump administration, knowing that this would never pass through Congress, is attempting to criminalize each of these Americans with the stroke of a pen.

Remember Trump’s comments at the National Governors Association Meeting? “By the way, bump stocks, we’re writing that out. I’m writing that out myself. I don’t care if Congress does it or not. I’m writing it out myself.”

So we are in year nine of a White House — both Trump and former President Barack Obama — that continues to blame most things on a “do nothing” Congress only to gain public support for their use of Constitution-shredding unilateral rule.

Now, if you want to subscribe to the pacifying terms such as, “common sense changes” or “overwhelming support,” by all means, follow along with the other sheep.

Here’s the level of “overwhelming support” a bump stock ban has had: The last time the DOJ and ATF asked for public comment on a ban, more than 36,000 citizens — much larger than your average poll sample size — stepped up to comment.

Eighty-five percent of them were against a ban.

Now, I wonder what would happen if we doubled the number to 72,000 comments during the current comment request concerning the notice. Probably nothing.

Not only is this administration moving unilaterally against the will of the majority, they are doing so using the agency that has twice published findings on the matter that contradict the administration’s opinion that bump stocks are machine guns.

The ATF has made their findings on bump stocks versus machine guns very clear.

“The stock has no automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs and performs no automatic mechanical function when installed. In order to use the installed device, the shooter must apply constant forward pressure with the non-shooting hand and constant rearward pressure with the shooting hand. Accordingly, we find that the ‘bump-stock’ is a firearm part and is not regulated as a firearm under the Gun Control Act or the National Firearms Act.”

So let’s call this move what it is: Pandering to both sides.

Trump is pulling a page from his predecessor’s playbook. First, accuse those that are tasked with making and changing laws by democratic vote. Then, position yourself as the savior of the people on the matter.

Finally, skirt Congress, the law, and the constitution under the guise of “Well SOMEONE had to do SOMETHING!”

Maybe I missed the chapter where this was taught as an acceptable practice of a democracy in civics class.

Although several people, including Mark Twain, have been given credit for the quote, it seems fitting in these times: “If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Michael Russell

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Opinion: Federal bump stock ban should worry both sides of the aisle