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More on Bump Stocks

Since sometimes ping backs actually still work, maybe it’s time to get back to blogging’s roots and use it to promote conversation across blogs like we used to. Herschel Smith links to my piece about the Empty Bank.

Sebastian is still arguing, seemingly, that as long as we all retreat in unison, everything will be okay (or at least as good as it can ever be given that we are likely on the losing side anyway).  We just need to avoid division.  If I’ve misinterpreted Sebastian in this admittedly cursory treatment of his latest post, please feel free to correct me.  But on the previous [related] post by Sebastian which I’ve linked (and will do so again), commenter Stephen Wright lays out the following charge.

It’s not really about whether we retreat in unison that’s the issue. The issue is whether the ground is defensible and worth the blood that will have to be shed with a slim chance of even keeping it.

This is, of course, an analogy, but since war is just the continuation of politics by other means, it’s an apt one. Even Sun Tzu recognized there is such a thing as indefensible ground. Let us not forget what bill had been introduced and which I’m told had the votes to pass if something wasn’t done to take the wind out of its sails. This bill would have:

  • Banned anything that increases the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm. Think about what can do that? Almost any part change you can imagine will have a theoretical effect on the rate of fire. This would have put all semi-autos at legal jeopardy.
  • Banned a huge number of existing transferrable machine-guns by making drop in auto sears flat out illegal.
  • Put crank firearms, which currently includes large number of historical pieces in museums in legal limbo.

The chief argument I’m hearing is that what ATF did was worse. But it’s not. Bump stocks were getting banned one way or another. The question is whether it’s better to have a narrow ruling that stretches ATF’s authority to its or near its breaking point, which can be done with oversight of a somewhat friendly administration, and which is sure to face court challenges later on that could end up prevailing.

But I supposed we could have stood on principle and let Congress give ATF and future hostile Administrations a whole new law with lots of room to create broad new powers to regulate semi-automatic firearms. I’d rather force ATF to go out on a limb with a narrow reinterpretation, buy some time, and hopefully cooler heads prevail.

I’m sorry, but if you think all ground is good to fight on, everywhere, all the time, I will tend to think that’s foolish.


17 Responses to “More on Bump Stocks”

  1. Carl says:

    Let’s go back to the crux of firearm rights, the Second Amendment. Does a ban on bump stocks infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms? And if one wishes to use the test of US v. Miller, is there a militia purpose (and thus protection) to bump stocks? IMO, the answer to both those is “not particularly”–and that makes the issue a pretty strange hill for gun rights advocates to die upon.

  2. Steve says:

    I think your pessimism about blogging was just a reflection of that fact that you were a gun-oriented blog in a time of relative peace. Now, you’re being reactivated, soldier! :D
    No way can people trust the socials with this kind of subject matter, and I think over the coming two-five years we’re going to be having a lot of great conversations. Court is looking good (note today’s denial of dismissal motion from NY), catalysts will improve the NRA (I hope) – the future looks active, if not always bright. Keep doing what you do! You’re an articulate and systematic thinker, which is ultra-valuable to me and others.

    • Sebastian says:

      Thanks! I think I will definitely be more active if there’s going to be some good old fashioned infighting. Not that I really like infighting, but I do want to be sure the wrong lizards don’t win.

  3. Patrick Henry, the 2nd says:

    I’m fine with the NRA pushing to have the ATF review to take the wind out of the sales of a semi-auto ban. What I’m not fond of is them not fighting against the terrible precedent it sets up for a Democrat President. Now they can ban semi-autos at the stroke of a pen, instead of fighting that battle openly in Congress. The NRA could have worked to craft a proper bump stock ban after the ATF review.

    • Sebastian says:

      They could always try to do that. But the law barely supports what they’ve done with bump stocks, and arguably doesn’t support it. It wouldn’t surprise me if the challenges to the bump stock reclassification win. If they try to do that, we have a very good case the law doesn’t support it. What we don’t want is them doing things like banning all trigger modifications, or banning classes if semi-autos, because a new law gives them a plausible interpretation to achieve that.

      • Charlie Foxtrot says:

        Your argument is completely inconsistent, hence also invalid. The current bump stock ban is either going to be ruled lawful or not. If it is ruled lawful, then it sets the precedent for further bans by executive fiat. If it is ruled unlawful, then it falls back to the legislature with the OK from the NRA to outlaw them. This gets us back to where we were before, where all kinds of other things will get outlawed by the legislature. Now, however, the House is ruled by Democrats. The NRA has set us up for a guaranteed loss of our rights. Congrats!

        • Sebastian says:

          Except in any case, you’ve bought something important: time. First, a favorable court ruling for the government on bump stocks is not an open invitation for any and all regulation beyond that. If the courts kick is back to Congress, because we’ve bought time, we have a chance of killing the bill outright, or narrowing it to only cover bump stocks.

          • Charlie Foxtrot says:

            I guess you just don’t want to admit it. The NRA gave up bump stocks. That’s it! No, we did not buy time, as I illustrated. Buying means we got something in return. We did NOT!

            Bump stocks are banned no matter what happens with the courts, as I outlined. The NRA just made it easier to ban other things by executive fiat, if the ATF bump stock rule stands.

            If the ATF bump stock rule gets overturned, we WILL see a ban bill that is written by Democrats in the House and already partially blessed by the NRA. This will be then sold to us by the NRA as one of their great compromises, where they fought tooth and nail for us. LOL.

            Anyway, arguing with you about this seems to be pointless. Telling you 6 or 12 months from now “I told you so!” will be pointless too, as you will never admit that the NRA’s bump stock move was a fiasco.

            We will hear more of this 4-D beer pong BS (Brilliant Strategy), just as when the NRA made its initial comments on bump stocks: “Don’t worry, the NRA referred this to the ATF and bump stocks won’t be banned. It’s chess vs. checkers” – James Yeager’s famous Chris Cox interview.

            • Stephen says:

              I can’t say I give a crap about bump stocks personally but I do really care about the principle of an agency reversing its own findings of fact based on political winds. There is an objective truth when it comes to matters of mechanical engineering, and at some point deliberate legislation *should* be required. I’d have been a bit mollified if the administration was at least transparent about what they were doing and threw us a bone by lightening regs in other areas so they could at least talk plausibly of compromise. I’m saddened to say “like Obama did” with the NFA trusts vs LEO approval regulations. I tend to think this would have weakened the ruling further, though (good for us, but understandable why the agency wouldn’t want to do this)

              I also understand the strategy Seb is talking about and can understand the reasoning for preferring to challenge weak agency rulings vs living with new bipartisan legislation. It does assume the legislation was inevitable, but the alternative argument – “they should have risked all” – must also make an assumption that the legislation _wasn’t_ inevitable in the fevered politics of the day. I’ve yet to hear anyone outside of social media (read: nobody speaking with authority) say we were on track to avoid the GOP senate selling out that week.

              Even if you consider the NRA wise in their dealings then, nobody can call them a no-compromise organization. I’d suggest that’s what GOA is for (of which I’m also a member) and there’s a benefit to NRA working in concert with a pit bull like GOA, but it’s also hard to have any faith in the NRA with all this crap going on. Let’s put it this way – I’d trust the NRA’s intentions and explanations better if they didn’t have massive smoke billowing out the Fairfax tower, double dealings with AckMac and all the appearances of interest conflicts throughout their high-dollar spending.

              The NRA has a massive trust problem right now, and Wayne spending hundreds of thousands on his wardrobe while asking me for $5 and my spare change is not a good look. The sickness in that organization is _structural_ by intent, which also decimates trust from the outside. The balance sheet problems are a result of mismanagement, not a lack of member support. It’s a damning situation, I’m sad to say. And while bump stocks are a little far afield, it’s hard to have any rational conversation about political strategy when the roof is on fire.

          • bombloader says:

            I hope it does get overturned in court. Not that I give a crap about bump sticks, but I do fear this kind of regulatory over reach would ultimately let the ATF and other agencies know that they can basically ignore obvious wording and intent of the laws they enforce when they craft regulations. OTOH, with the current court makeup, a really good scenario would be a decision that rolls back much of the Chevron doctrine.

  4. Brad says:

    The ATF lawmaking on “bumpstocks” via ‘administrative rules’, has opened the door for President Kamala Harris to make good on her gun-control threat; to impose by Presidential Executive Order all the gun-control policies she wants, if Congress doesn’t cough up within 100 days all the gun-control legislation she wants.

    • Sebastian says:

      She can always do that. Obama could have done it. But it would stretch the law even further to incredulity. The courts would be more inclined to squash it than they would if Congress had actually given them legal power to regulate semi-autos in a heavy handed manner.

    • Jim W says:

      I don’t think you appreciate the extent to which

      A) there are no principles or precedents that cannot be handwaved away in a second if there aren’t any political consequences to doing do. We don’t have CA’s gun laws on a national level because it would be political suicide to do so, not because there is some legal principle holding our enemies back. They aren’t that principled in the first place.

      B) all that ultimately matters to our success is the accumulation of political power and preventing our enemies from accumulating that same power.

      C) a lot of the battle for power comes down to making it easier or harder for gun culture to thrive. Politically aware gun owners are the core of our movement in a democracy. When lots of people own guns, it’s very hard to pass gun control without pissing a ton of people off because you’re banning their stuff. The bad states pretty much don’t have gun owners anymore. We all left and those states made gun ownership so burdensome that restarting the culture isn’t possible without outside intervention. Our immediate goal is to bring about that intervention by securing a six vote majority in the Supreme Court. Their goal is to being about incremental barriers to gun culture to slowly shrink the size of the built in opposition to real gun control.

      You need to see everything through this lens. It is all that matters.

  5. Jim W says:

    The gun grabbers have to strike when the iron is hot to get anything. Turning a chance of an immediate semi auto ban into a years long rule-making tug of war over a side issue takes the wind out of their sails and gives us another issue to take to court later on.

    I think the best strategy for the NRA in the near term is ensuring a second term for Trump. The only real path to fixing the bad states is through the Court. We need Trump to be in office when Ginsburg kicks it. Everything else is small potatoes.

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