Common Sense Solutions, Within the Law
By Jim Kuiken
Everyone is rightfully horrified by the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, and are looking for answers. How could this happen? Who was this guy, and what was his motivation? Why did he have access to automatic weapons and/or semi-automatic weapons that essentially functioned as automatic weapons? How do we prevent this kind of thing from happening?
Unfortunately, we will never know answers to some of these questions, but one thing that has caught the media and public’s attention is a little-know firearm accessory, the “Bump Fire Stock.” It is not the only piece of equipment that can cause this function (firing a semi-automatic firearm like a fully automatic firearm), but it’s the one in the news right now. Believe it or not, that same function can be achieved with other devices, rubber bands, belts, and even your fingers.
But this one has everyone’s attention. So what is the solution? Not the emotional knee-jerk reaction of “banning” the Bump Fire stock…and yes, one Senator from California has predictably put forth a draft bill calling for exactly that. What will that achieve in practical terms? Nothing – since if it passes (and it won’t), it would ban one specific piece of equipment, and ignore the actual problem. (and it would be challenged in court, most likely successfully)
It’s like saying lots of people die because of cars, especially young males…and young males tend to like red sports cars, so let’s ban red sports cars to help solve the vehicle accident death rate…instead of looking at ways to help stop deaths attributed to car accidents by attacking the actual problems that cause car deaths…like drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, etc.; and implementing safeguards like seat belts, car structural safety, airbags, guard rails, driver education, etc. In other words, a holistic approach to eliminating or reducing the actual problem. People are still and always will be the uncontrollable factor in most problems.
So let’s get rid of guns altogether. Ban guns from private use! Well…200+ years of the Second Amendment, and successful court defenses of that Amendment show that this is not a practical solution. We have the “individual right” to bear arms, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in several cases, but mainly in their primary Second Amendment cases, including United States v. Miller, (1939); District of Columbia v. Heller (2008); and McDonald v. Chicago (2010).
BUT…and here’s where we start building our solution…
In “Heller”, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, which in part says: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” – and – “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
That’s the first step in a solution to the problem, the legality of regulating weapons by where and how they can be carried and/or possessed (owned), and by whom and under what conditions.
The next step is the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 (amended under the Internal Revenue Code, Title 26, in 1968), referred to as Title II of the Federal firearms laws, coupled with the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) referred to as Title I. The NFA classifies types of firearms, and specifically, taxes the commercial sales, manufacture, and transfer of weapons – especially “Title II” weapons, including “automatic firearms”.
It does not “ban” certain types of weapons, but it enforces the regulation of the ownership, transfer, manufacture, etc. of those weapons by taxing them. Some of these weapons (and their accessories) are defined here, in Title 26 U.S. Code § 5845 - Definitions.
So, can we use that existing law to put restrictions on the Bump Fire Stock and other devices like it? Sorry to say, but no. Not under the existing law, which defines “automatic firearms” (defined as a “machine gun” in that statute) as “…any weapon which shoots, is 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.” It also includes any device that would cause the firearm to shoot in that manner.
The sticky part is the last phrase “by a single function of the trigger”. The Bump Fire Stock and devices like it do not do that, and is why they are legal. They can cause the firearm to fire at the same rate (how many bullets it can fire per second or per minute) as an automatic firearm, but it does it by “bumping” the firearm back and forth against your finger, firing one round at a time per each trigger pull, but that happens so fast that it can fire (with each round fired by a separate single trigger pull) as fast as an automatic firearm which fires multiple rounds with one single trigger pull.
This can, and should, be addressed by legislation – the only remedy. By modifying the definition of a “machine gun” or it’s accessories, or by inserting a single paragraph into that law after the paragraph that defines the accessories, this semi-automatic weapon that fires at the rate of an automatic weapon can be classified as a Title II weapon (accessory), and regulated like the sear (a part of the trigger mechanism that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon) or other device or accessory as described in the second sentence of the “machine gun” definition:
“The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”
The additional sentence would be something like:
The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in causing a weapon, through mechanical means, to fire at a rate of fire substantially similar to that of a machinegun (they would have to specify minimum rate of fire here, with stats from BATF, FBI, NRA and other organizations), and any combination of parts that can be assembled into such a device if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
If such an amendment to Title II (definitions) were enacted, it would cause the Bump Stock and other such devices to be reclassified, regulated and taxed – which would do several things.
So contact your Congressmen (Senate and House), and fight for a common-sense (and realistic solution). Share this with them…heck, send them a copy of this article!
Just make sure they call it “Jim’s Law” if they enact it!