Bump Stock Ban Bumps Up Against the Constitution

Bump Stock Ban Bumps Up Against the Constitution

Gun Rights

Share After the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, the phrase “bump stock” entered the public lexicon. What was, and always has been, a gun-range novelty was suddenly the subject of national discussion. In the months following the tragedy, Congress considered and ultimately rejected a law banning these devices. Eager to seize political capital, however, the Trump administration sought to ban them anyway. The administration faced one problem, though: the Constitution. As anyone who’s seen School House Rock can tell you, only Congress has the ability to write new laws. So the administration attempted to give itself such a power by “reinterpreting” an existing law: the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), which heavily regulates “machineguns.” For decades, Congress, the executive branch, and the people shared a common understanding: the definition of “machinegun” in the NFA was clear, applying only to weapons that fired continuously from a single function. Bump stocks, which require substantial user input to fire, had never been considered “machineguns,” with precedent spanning multiple administrations. President Trump announced that his administration was changing course. The president expressly declined to go through Congress, instead directing officials to redefine bump-stock devices as “machineguns.” In turn, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) broke from decades of precedent and granted itself a new power to ban a widely owned firearm accessory. This expansion of regulatory authority, motivated by political expediency, cannot stand. Whether one agrees that bump stocks should be regulated or not, this change is not limited […]

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