‘Bump Stock’ Theater: Bad Bill … But Great Speech!
The dog-and-pony show—the choreographed charade of sound bites and optics staged to assure the TV-educated that elected officials are trying their very best at all times to do something about gun violence—is caterwauling into a rolling cavalcade of look-at-me frenetics as lawmakers race to file “common sense” bills in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre that are designed to make headlines and then disappear.
The strategy works like this: Submit a fatally flawed bill that won’t pass because it won’t withstand a court challenge or is just plain dopey, introduce it in a press conference in an inspired, passionate speech, then blame partisan politics and special interests for its failure. Next election cycle, remind voters how you bravely challenged the powers-that-be and vow to keep submitting your “common sense” legislation until it passes, even though you know it never will. It’s a winning ploy—especially when you can be the first to respond to a national horror with your fatally flawed bill that will never pass, like the ever-adroit Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) did by resubmitting her repeatedly rejected proposed assault weapons ban in the days after the Oct. 1 mass murder in Las Vegas.
But Feinstein’s feigned attempt to address gun violence was merely the first of many such antics, with some Republicans joining the dog-and-pony show.
Take, for instance, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, who with Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat, proposed a bump stock ban that, after cursory analysis, would actually ban all semi-automatic rifles in the United States.
The Curbelo/Moulton bill, which never actually mentions bump stocks by name, would ban any person from possessing or making any part that could be used to increase the rate of fire in any semi-automatic rifle.
As Sean Davis writes in The Federalist, since the proposed bill never specifies a base rate of fire against which any illegal increases would be judged, it makes no sense — which, generally (but not always) tends to be a fatal flaw because, as a cursory analysis reveals, it essentially bans any and all parts that would allow the gun to fire at all, since the mere ability to fire a semi-automatic weapon by definition increases its rate of fire from zero.
Nice try, though. The speeches were great and the press conference was spectacular. The viewing audience at home was inspired and, finally, elected officials are going to do something about gun violence.
Bill Akins, a 63-year-old Marine veteran, Elvis impersonator and “tinkerer” who designed the first “bump stock” two decades ago as the “Akins Accelerator,” has unsuccessfully sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) twice for what he claims were contradictory rulings that prevented him from capitalizing on his invention.
In an Oct. 10 Reuters article by Joseph Ax, Akins said he came up with his idea in 1996 after watching a documentary about U.S. Navy twin anti-aircraft guns firing at Japanese warplanes during World War II.
He brought his idea to “a firearms industry businessman,” who secured two letters from the ATF, affirming the mechanism was legal and poured his savings into the project. But the ATF outlawed the device in 2005, concluding it transformed semi-automatic rifles into illegal machine guns.
Meanwhile, Slide Fire Solutions began making a version of the bump stock that lacked a recoil spring that Akins’ design included. It was approved by the ATF.
Akins transferred his patent to FosTecH Outdoors, an outdoor sporting goods company, and it engaged Slide Fire Solution in a legal battle over patent infringement before settling the case in 2012.
Akins told Ax he is limited in what he can say about the litigation but said the ATF “just destroyed our business” by requiring all customers who purchased an Akins Accelerator to remove the spring, rendering the device inoperable.
Massachusetts has responded with knee-jerk alacrity by becoming the first state in the wake of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre to propose and adopt bills banning “bump stocks” even though its existing “assault weapons” ban already made the device illegal.
The state Senate voted 33-0 on Oct. 12 to ban the sale of bump stocks and trigger cranks, attachments that increase the firing rate of a weapon. The state House voted 151-3 in favor of a bump stock ban on Oct. 11.
The measure sounds great and was applauded, but state law already bans weapons that fire multiple rounds "by one continuous activation of the trigger” so, therefore, was utterly unnecessary, but Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said he’d sign it anyway.
California is the only state that explicitly restricts the sale of bump-fire devices. State statute adopted in 1990 bans "multiburst trigger activators,” which it defines as a device attached to a semi-automatic rifle that "allows the firearm to discharge two or more shots in a burst by activating the device."
New York does not ban bump stocks specifically, but restricts weapons that simulate machine guns, meaning it may be legal to sell or manufacture bump-fire stocks in the state, but illegal to attach one to a rifle.
New Jersey, Oregon and Minnesota laws, like Massachusetts, prohibit "trigger activators" that increase a weapon's rate of fire to that of a fully automatic gun, which is a “bump stock”by definition. Michigan bans devices that "convert a semiautomatic firearm into a fully automatic firearm" and allow continuous firing "without renewed pressure on the trigger for each successive shot."
Brady Bunch Files Lawsuit Against ‘Bump Stock’ Manufacturer
The first-responder legal team at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has filed a lawsuit on behalf of victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre against Slide Fire Solutions, the Texas-based manufacturer of "bump stocks.”
The lawsuit filed Oct. 13 in Clark County District Court in Nevada has three named plaintiffs — all victims of the shooting — and seeks class-action status.
According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit claims Slide Fire Solutions “misled federal authorities about their intended purpose and marketed them to thrill-seeking gun enthusiasts who wanted the experience of firing a fully automatic weapon that is otherwise greatly restricted under federal law.”
Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Center, told the AP that Slide Fire Solutions apparently took advantage of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) ignorance regarding firearms to convince the naive agency that the bump stock was to help disabled gun owners.
This was disingenuous and misleading, Gardiner said, because “when they marketed it to the public, they said it's because fully automatic weapons are fun.”
Gardiner said Slide Fire Solutions cannot be shielded by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gunmakers and dealers from being held liable whenever a crime is committed with a firearm, because it manufactures neither firearms nor ammunition.