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Can The Stupid Party Defend The Constitution, Or Walk And Chew Gum Simultaneously?

The aftermath of the attack in Las Vegas has, as predicted, produced self-righteous, cynical cries for the usual list of gun control fantasies. Despite some politicians, in moments of unexpected truth telling, admitting none of the laws demanded would have stopped the Las Vegas killer, or any other killer, the demands for the dismantling of the Second Amendment continue unabated. The foremost of these at the moment is a demand for the regulation/banning of bump fire stocks.

A Slide Fire bump fire stock for an AR-15

A bump fire stock–a primary manufacturer of such devices is here–is generally a plastic replacement stock for semiautomatic rifles, such as the AR-15 or AK-47 families. Such stocks do not in any way alter the mechanisms of rifles, but they allow the rifle itself to recoil a short distance into the stock. They feature a sort of plastic ledge adjacent to, and on one side of, the trigger. The trigger finger is held against this ledge, and the off hand–the hand holding the fore end of the rifle–puts forward pressure on the fore end, that arm essentially acting as a spring. As long as the balance between trigger finger, stock placement in the shoulder, and just the right off hand pressure on the fore end are maintained, when the rifle is fired, recoil will force the trigger against the trigger finger, which does not move backwards as it normally does, firing the rifle, which moves backward, allowing the trigger to reset and initiating the cycle again.

It’s a rather clumsy arrangement. Fail to hold just the right tension with the off hand and the rifle will malfunction. Fail to hold the trigger finger rigidly in position, and the rifle will not fire. The constant movement of the rifle upsets not only a consistent cheek weld, but the alignment of the sights, and induces an essentially uncontrollable movement of the barrel, badly affecting accuracy.

Why would anyone spend as much as $200 for such an accessory? Because it simulates fully automatic fire, which is certainly fun. However, as a practical addition to a rifle, the device makes little sense.

Fuel was thrown on the fire of the most recent controversy when the NRA announced it favored additional “regulations” on such stocks, even though it also explained it does not support a ban. The Hill reports:

Progressive empathy

Banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks. This is a fact that has been proven time and again in countries across the world,’ NRA leaders Wayne LaPierre and Christopher Cox said in a statement.

The two then said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should review whether bump stocks comply with federal law.

‘The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,’ they said.

Bump fire stocks were reviewed by the Obama BATF in 2010 and were not restricted. Amazingly, the Obamite BATF actually followed the law and rendered a reasonable decision based on the law. Here’s is the relevant portion of the National Firearms Act:

2.1.6 Machinegun. Firearms within the definition of machinegun include weapons that shoot, are designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot without manual reloading by a single function of the trigger.

The ‘designed to shoot automatically more than one shot without manual reloading by a single function of the trigger’ portion of the definition relates to the characteristics of the weapon that permit full automatic fire. ATF has also held that the ‘designed’ definition includes those weapons which have not previously functioned as machineguns but possess design features which facilitate full automatic fire by simple modification or elimination of existing component parts. ATF has published rulings concerning specific firearms classified as machineguns based on this interpretation of the term ‘designed.’

Included within the definition of machinegun is any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun. This portion of the machinegun definition addresses what are commonly referred to as conversion kits. The ‘any part designed and intended solely and exclusively’ language refers to a part that was produced for no other reason than to convert a weapon into a machinegun. Illustrated below are examples of such parts.

What this seemingly arcane language means is semiautomatic rifles are not machineguns under the law. However, even the internal parts necessary to convert a semiauto to fully automatic fire are treated as though they were a complete machinegun, and a $200 federal tax and related paperwork are required to own them. Converting any semiauto to full auto fire without government permission, paperwork, and payment of a $200 tax is illegal. Obviously, bumpfire stocks, because they do not–under current law– actually convert a semiauto to fully automatic fire, are not subject to government regulation.

This is so because they do not allow continual fire with a single press of the trigger. Depressing and holding back the trigger of a fully automatic weapon allows continuous fire until the trigger is released or all ammunition is expended. Expert machine gunners fire two to three shot bursts by trigger manipulation, holding the trigger back only long enough to fire the desired number of rounds before releasing it. Movie machinegun employment is mostly fanciful. Bump fire stocks merely allow the trigger to be repeatedly pressed somewhat more quickly than normal. Any semiautomatic rifle on which one is installed remains a semiautomatic rifle, and a single press of the trigger still fires only a single shot, and no more. This is doubtless why the Obama BATF did not designate such stocks as machineguns under the law, which remains a remarkable feat of constitutional restraint during the age of Obama.

As the investigation into the Las Vegas shooting is far from complete, all we know, and this from media reports, which are inherently untrustworthy, is there may have been several rifles equipped with bump fire stocks in the shooter’s hotel room. Photos have been released indicating they may have been AR-15 pattern rifles. We do not know that these bump fire stock equipped rifles were actually used in the shooting. We do not know if the shooter had actual fully automatic weapons or if so, whether they were used. If he had such weapons, we do not know how he acquired them, or if he had sufficient knowledge of gunsmithing to convert semiautos to fully automatic rifles. This has not, particularly with the NRA’s potential opening of the gun control floodgates, stopped congress critters from jumping on the gun control bandwagon:

Progressive faith

More Republicans on Thursday said they backed a ban on the special accessories used by a gunman in Las Vegas to allow many of his semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), a Republican considered vulnerable in the upcoming election, is teaming up with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) on bipartisan legislation that would outlaw the devices, known as ‘bump stocks.’ Other House and Senate Democrats already have introduced similar bills.

Two of Curbelo’s Florida GOP colleagues, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Vern Buchanan, said Thursday morning they would support the ban. Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.), Kevin Yoder (Kan.) and Lynn Jenkins (Kan.), three red-state Republicans, also said they back the ban.

‘This might be the type of legislation that might get broad bipartisan support because it’s hard to make the argument that there is a Second Amendment encroachment on banning this kind of accessory that is designed only to create mayhem and more violence,’ Ros-Lehtinen told The Hill.

Trump Derangement Syndrome

Even President Trump appears to be about to jump onto the bandwagon:

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at her press briefing said the president was open to a discussion on the devices.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif) also told The Hill he supports a bump stock ban, as did Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.). Both are moderates.

‘Automatic weapons need to be illegal in the United States,’ Royce told The Hill, ‘and it’s necessary to move legislation to make it impossible to covert a rifle to an automatic weapon.

‘I think we will move legislation,’ he added.

This kind of opportunism reveals how little our legislators know about guns and the law. It is legal to own fully automatic weapons, but they are heavily regulated. Since 1934, there have been only two to three incidents–potentially including the Las Vegas attack, if an automatic were actually used–where lawfully owned automatics were used in any kind of crime. In 1986, The Firearm Owner’s Protection Act, which substantially amended the Gun Control Act of 1968, was passed. In an underhanded maneuver, Democrats managed to slip in a provision banning citizen possession of any newly manufactured machineguns.   Since 1986, it has been illegal for the law-abiding to own any machinegun manufactured after 1986, though previously owned and manufactured weapons were grandfathered. As a result, such weapons are rare and very expensive. There are, of course, exemptions for the military and police. In addition, it is impossible for legislation to “make it impossible to covert a rifle to an automatic weapon.” Such conversions are a matter of having the knowledge, parts and tools necessary. The law already makes such conversions without government permission illegal.

So what’s going on here? Are congressional Republicans pretending to be interested in banning bump fire stocks as a bargaining ploy to better secure and expand Second Amendment Rights? On one hand, it is not unreasonable to look on any restriction of the right to keep and bear arms, regardless of how slight, as illegitimate. On the other, legislative horse-trading is an integral part of our representative republic. Might it not be wise to give up something small and essentially harmless to liberty and tactical effectiveness to obtain even greater security for our Second Amendment rights?

Walther P22 with suppressor, doubling the length of the handgun

Under the second scenario, it might be acceptable to allow Democrats to wave the bloody corpse of bump fire stocks in victory in exchange for passage of national concealed carry reciprocity and removal of the unnecessary and onerous federal paperwork and tax on suppressors. Not only would those laws make America safer, they would go a long way toward protecting the hearing of law-abiding gun owners. One can hope our congressional representatives are smart enough to think this way, but it’s doubtful, as Ammoland.com reports:

Speaker Paul Ryan will not allow Congressional action on national concealed carry reciprocity to move bills forward, Rep. Thomas Massie told host Mark Walters Thursday on Armed American Radio.  The reason given is Ryan thinks the timing isn’t right to consider H.R. 2909, the D.C. Personal Protection Reciprocity Act, a supplement to state reciprocity provisions of H.R. 38.

Massie introduced his legislation after the ball field shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and other Republicans by an anti-Trump Bernie Sanders supporter in Alexandria, VA.

The article explains Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “appear to be blocking bills advancing the right to keep and bear arms.” Apparently, they don’t think the time is right to pass national concealed carry reciprocity, and likely, the hearing protection act. When they might think the time is right for such things remains a mystery.  The Las Vegas attack is unlikely to infuse such invertebrates with political courage. Of course, loud noises, bad weather or their reflections in mirrors might also daunt them. As the article notes:

The thing is, depending on who gun owners listen to, both Ryan and McConnell are called ‘staunch supporters of the Second Amendment.’ Yet time after time, on guns, on Obamacare, on immigration, on any real change, they look like they’re taking positions directly contrary to why a critical mass of Americans got tired of standard Republican excuse-making fare and voted for Donald Trump.

Obamacare is not an express provision of the Constitution. The Second Amendment is. Ryan and McConnell can’t repeal the unconstitutional Obamacare, and apparently don’t care to protect the Second Amendment. More strictly regulating or banning bump fire stocks will plainly take new legislation, which at the least redefines  machineguns. Presumably the members of the Stupid Party are willing to do that.

Some canny supporters of the Constitution have noted that allowing the left to ban bump stocks will begin the inevitable slide down the slippery slope. Anti-liberty politicians are now so emboldened by Republican fecklessness they no longer bother to deny their true designs, as Fox News reports:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she ‘certainly hopes’ a ban on ‘bump stocks’ will open the door to additional gun control actions.

‘They’re going to say, ‘You give them bump stock, it’s going to be a slippery slope.’ I certainly hope so,’ she told a reporter at a news conference.

The reporter had asked her about whether she was concerned that Republicans would make the ‘slippery slope’ argument on ‘bump stocks,’ used by the Las Vegas gunman to fire more rounds with a semi-automatic weapon.

Pelosi said Democrats still want to push for enhanced background checks on gun purchases, which in itself is a ‘compromise’ from even harsher restrictions favored by the party.

While I have no interest in bump stocks, they are legal under current law, and we still have no idea whether they were used in the Las Vegas attack. There is no real evidence the public is clamoring for the banning of these devices, but if the members of the Stupid Party feel it necessary to surrender to Democrats, as they commonly do, why not get something unquestionably good for liberty out of the deal? Unfortunately, this would require Republicans to actually do something good for the nation, and Democrats probably wouldn’t give up anything to obtain their objectives anyway. Why should they when they can count, as usual, on Republicans bravely running away?

Surrender, in this instance, may have a high price. Considering Republican’s failure to repeal Obamacare in even the slightest way, most Americans that put President Trump in the White House are unlikely to think Republicans are capable of delivering tax reform, immigration reform, or anything else worthwhile. Being complicit in the degradation of the Second Amendment just might be a last straw.

I’m certain the members of the Stupid Party believe voters won’t vote against them lest Democrats take over, but that’s a dangerous calculation these days. Republicans just might come to the belief it’s better to put the Democrats in power and fight the coming war sooner rather than later, get it out of the way once and for all to keep America from becoming Venezuela.

Far-fetched? We’ll see, and probably sooner rather than later.