Retreat On Wall Funding And Bump Stock Ban May Cause Cracks In Trump’s Base

Donald Trump boasted during the 2016 campaign that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters.” Until now that has been true. No matter what Trump has done or what revelations have come out his supporters have stuck with him. This week may have been the breaking point for some Trump supporters, however.

Core Trump supporters have a few issues that rise above all others. For many, guns and immigration top the list and this week saw President Trump take positions on both issues that are unpopular with many members of his base.

First, Trump, who many supporters lauded as a fighter, surrendered to Democrats on a temporary funding bill for the government. As recently as last week, Trump had vowed not to sign a new spending bill that did not include $5 billion in funding for his border wall. On Tuesday, however, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders retreated from that position, telling reporters, “At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government. We want to shut down the border.”

Trump supporters almost universally support the border wall, even to the point of launching a GoFundMe campaign that has so far raised $1 million for the project. Many were also strongly in favor of a government shutdown over funding for the wall. The White House acquiesence to a temporary funding measure will be viewed as a defeat by many members of the base.

Even worse for Trump is the long-awaited bump stock ban. The Second Amendment is considered untouchable by many Trump supporters and conservatives yet President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to outlaw the rapid-fire devices and require Americans who own them to either turn them in or destroy them within 90 days. There is no provision for compensating bump stock owners for their devices which could cost hundreds of dollars. Worse, the ATF under President Obama told Congress that the government did not have the authority under current law to ban the devices.

The Trump Administration’s ban has brought criticism from many Second Amendment supporters. Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, told the Atlanta Journal, “When you start banning accessories to firearms, then you really get on a slippery slope. It doesn’t change the function of the firearm, and therefore it shouldn’t be banned.”

“It is nibbling away at our second amendment rights,” Janelle Westrom, owner of Davenport Guns, told Iowa’s TV-6. “I don’t like the decision but, myself personally, it doesn’t affect me,” she added.

“I don’t care about bump stocks,” tweeted Sean Davis, Trump supporter and a founder of The Federalist, “but I care a great deal about lawless government power grabs, based on utter lies, that will instantly turn innocent people who did nothing wrong into felons and be used to justify nationwide confiscation regimes.”

Davis also noted in a separate tweet, “Under the new rule, an individual who illegally brings a loaded rifle into an elementary school will get a shorter maximum prison sentence (5 years) than a woman who has a bump stock in her garage but doesn’t own any actual guns (10 years).”

On the other hand, some people do support the bump stock ban. “I have to agree with the ban,” Geoff Wilson of Hendersonville, N.C. told WLOS TV.. “Turn them in, get rid of them. And like I said, I’m a full supporter of the Second Amendment.”

Another supporter of the ban is Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat state representative who introduced a similar bill in the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year. Rep. Oliver’s bill went nowhere but she told the AJC, “I’m delighted that I can say that President Trump did something that makes me happy.”

While some Trump supporters will rally around the president and deny that the bump stock ban is an infringement of the Second Amendment and an unconstitutional overreach of executive authority, for others Trump’s moves will be a breach of trust. Where Trump’s past statements in support of gun control can be overlooked by many, the bump stock ban initiated by the president without getting anything in exchange cannot be explained away as a bargaining ploy or mere rhetoric.

Trump’s support won’t evaporate overnight but this week may mark a turning point with his base. Issuing an ultimatum on wall funding to Democrats and then backing down smacks of weakness while the bump stock ban calls into question Trump’s core principles. Supporters who have not doubted the president up to this point may now start to do so. Trump’s base won’t vote Democrat but they may stay home. This may be the president’s Fifth Avenue moment.

Donald Trump Just Restricted The Second Amendment More Than Barack Obama

Although he is still endorsed by the NRA, President Trump just presided over the biggest federal restriction on the Second Amendment since President Clinton signed the assault weapons ban in 1994. On Tuesday, the Trump Administration officially banned bump stocks in a regulatory move that bypassed Congress.

In a scenario reminiscent of the worst fears of gun owners, the new federal regulation makes it illegal to possess a bump stock. Any person who possesses one of the rapid-fire devices must either surrender it to authorities or destroy it when the new regulation takes effect. Per the Associated Press, the deadline to comply will be 90 days after the regulation is published in the Federal Register. That is expected to happen Friday, meaning that bump stock owners will have until late March to decide how to dispose of their property.

The regulation was signed into law by President Trump’s newly appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. The president had directed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns” last February. CNN reported in November after the election that the regulation had been finalized and would be issued soon.

The bump stock ban seems to be a solution in search of a problem. The devices, which use the recoil of the gun to help the shooter pull the trigger rapidly, are not typically used in crimes. The exception was the October 2017 Las Vegas massacre in which the murderer used a rifle with a bump stock to kill 59 people. Bump stocks make it difficult to aim and shoot accurately, but concert-goers in Las Vegas were packed into such a tight area that aiming was hardly necessary.

Ironically, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms under Barack Obama determined that a regulatory bump stock ban was not legal under current law. In 2013, the assistant director of the ATF wrote to a member of Congress that bump stocks “are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes” and were therefore legal. The letter stated that the devices did “not provide an automatic action — requiring instead continuous multiple inputs (trigger pulls) by the user for each successive shot” and were therefore not subject to the Federal Firearms Act. In the expert opinion of the ATF, a bump stock ban would require Congress to pass new legislation.

Now, five years later, the Trump Administration is arguing that the Obama-era ATF was wrong and that bump stocks are in violation of the Federal Firearms Act. The laws of physics have not changed over the past five years. Guns with bump stocks still require separate trigger pulls to fire multiple times. Neither has the Federal Firearms Act changed. The only thing that has changed is the Trump Administration’s interpretation of the law.

Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, told the AP that the organization was “disappointed” by the ban. Baker said that the regulation “fails to address the thousands of law-abiding Americans” who bought the devices before the Trump Administration deemed them to be illegal and argued that current owners should be grandfathered in with an amnesty.

The Trump bump stock ban contains many of the worst aspects of liberal gun control plans and sets a dangerous precedent. First, the ban is arbitrary and will have little, if any, effect on public safety. The rationale for the ban, that no one really needs a bump stock, is the same rationale that many liberals use to advocate banning AR-15s and guns in general. Proponents say that bump stocks are a gun accessory and not protected by the Second Amendment, but the same argument could be made for many other items including scopes, reloading equipment, magazines, and ammunition.

More disturbing is that the Trump Administration is bypassing Congress to invoke the ban in violation of the Federal Firearms Act. Current law defines a “machine gun” 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.” However, as the ATF pointed out in 2013, that does not describe a bump stock’s operation. Reading the law to mean something that it does not say is usually strongly criticized by conservatives.

The new regulation goes further in restricting the Second Amendment than anything successfully enacted by Barack Obama, who was notoriously anti-gun. The Republican Congress killed Obama’s proposed gun restrictions limiting the former president to issuing a series of Executive Orders that fell short of banning any weapon or accessory.

President Trump’s bump stock ban is a blueprint that future anti-gun Democrat presidents can use to bypass Congress and further restrict the Second Amendment. In addition to being an anti-gun measure, the move is a flagrant abuse of executive authority.

There is no word on whether the NRA will endorse President Trump for reelection.

Report: Trump To Issue Order Banning Bump Stocks

Now that the election is over, President Trump is reportedly ready to issue his long-promised ban on bump stocks.

You may remember that the president ordered then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.” Trump added that he expected the regulations to be finalize soon. That was in February.

Now CNN is reporting that the moment of truth has finally arrived. In March, the Department of Justice submitted a proposed rule that would reinterpret an Obama-era regulatory interpretation that allowed the devices. In 2013, the assistant director of the ATF wrote to Congress that bump stocks were not subject to the Federal Firearms Act because they required “continuous multiple inputs (trigger pulls) by the user for each successive shot.”

Per CNN’s report, the ban will be announced within a few days. As part of the rule change, owners of bump stocks would be required to either turn in or discard their devices.

A senior DOJ official told CNN, “Bump stocks turn semiautomatic guns into illegal machine guns. This final rule sends a clear message: Illegal guns have no place in a law-and-order society, and we will continue to vigorously enforce the law to keep these illegal weapons off the street.”

Democrats support a bump stock ban but argue that an executive ban would be subject to legal challenges in the courts. Republicans typically oppose new gun controls, but many have urged the Justice Department to enact a bureaucratic ban, arguing that bump stocks are a gun accessory that is not protected by the Second Amendment.

Shockingly, even the National Rifle Association has called for increased regulation of the devices. In a statement released after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, the NRA said, “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.” The Las Vegas massacre appears to be the only crime of note that has been committed with a bump stock.

Along with the obvious questions of what the Administration hopes to gain by banning a device that has almost no history of use in violent crimes and whether it is constitutional for a president to unilaterally decide to reinterpret existing law to accomplish his dubious policy goal, another question should haunt Second Amendment activists as they prepare to bid their bump stocks goodbye:

Isn’t ammunition also a firearms accessory?

Originally published Nov. 29, 2018

In Defense Of Bump Stocks

In the days since the Parkland school shooting, politicians of both parties have lined up in favor of a ban on bump stocks. Even many Republicans voters have given their assent to a ban on the rapid fire devices without much more than a whimper.

 

Two things make the matter of Republicans favoring gun control even more odd. First is that the proposed ban is an emotional reaction from a party that typically counsels against quick, emotional legislating after tragedies. Second, the Parkland massacre did not involve a bump stock.

 

A maxim of aviation is “don’t just do something, sit there.” It is very seldom that that any action needs to be taken so quickly that the consequences cannot be considered. In that spirit, let us take time out from the cacophony to look at the issue logically.

Bump stocks may be rare in crimes because they decrease the accuracy of the weapon. Andrew Wickerham, who trains police and security guards, told the Christian Science Monitor, “I’ve always thought these bump stocks were just a novelty. They’re not that good, and they’re hard as hell to control.”

 

A bump stock ban would almost certainly be ineffective because a modestly handy gun owner can craft a bump stock from common parts cheaply and quickly. It took me about two minutes to find the instructions on the internet.

 

In 2013, the assistant director of the ATF wrote to a member of Congress that bump stocks “are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes” and were therefore legal. The letter stated that the devices did “not provide an automatic action — requiring instead continuous multiple inputs (trigger pulls) by the user for each successive shot” and were therefore not subject to the Federal Firearms Act.

 

Marianos’ change of heart is exactly why the rule of law is important. Laws should be objective and consistent, not subject to the changing whims of regulators. If the Federal Firearms Act did not apply to bump stocks in 2013, it doesn’t apply now just because the president wants to ban them.

 

If President Trump and the rest of the nation decides that a bump stock ban is what the people want, there is a constitutional process in place to make it so. This is How A Bill Becomes a Law.

 

President Trump is falling into the same trap of abusing executive authority that plagued President Obama. The difference now is that Republicans at least tried to hold President Obama accountable.

 

What President Trump and other pro-gun control Republicans don’t consider is the precedent that they are setting. A presidential bump stock ban would begin a pattern of emotionally regulating policies that would make no difference to the overall problem of mass shootings. It would reinforce the Obama-era model of presidents bypassing Congress to decree laws from the Oval Office. Further, the argument that “no one needs a bump stock” sounds suspiciously like the left’s argument for a total gun ban.

 

President Trump’s bump stock ban won’t reduce the crime rate or solve the problem of school shootings. It also won’t placate the anti-gun left. It will, however, force Republicans to live with themselves after violating their principles on multiple levels.

Originally published Feb. 25, 2018

NRA to Fox News Sunday: “Bans Don’t Work”

After issuing a statement calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to review the legality of bump stocks, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has affirmed that further bans on guns or gun parts don’t stop crime.

NRA’s Chris Cox went on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace to discuss their statement in wake of the Las Vegas massacre.  Cox said, “We don’t believe bans ever worked on anything.”

“There were NRA members who were shot [in Las Vegas]. There were members who were murdered,” Cox said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“What we’re getting from NRA members is grief and fear, the same way other Americans are grieving.”

Cox added, “What we saw last week was pure evil. … We don’t believe that bans have ever worked on anything.” But he added that ATF should look to review bump stocks if they indeed converted semi-automatic firearms into automatic ones in the case of the Las Vegas shooting. While many have interpreted this as a call-to-action (CTA) to regulate bump stocks, it isn’t a blatant call for banning them. Just a review. Nevertheless, we can all agree that banning bump stocks won’t prevent future mass shootings.

This came in wake of the NRA issuing a joint statement by Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, which read:

“In the aftermath of the evil and senseless attack in Las Vegas, the American people are looking for answers as to how future tragedies can be prevented.  Unfortunately, the first response from some politicians has been to call for more gun control.  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.  In Las Vegas, reports indicate that certain devices were used to modify the firearms involved. Despite the fact that the Obama administration approved the sale of bump fire stocks on at least two occasions, the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices 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.  In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities.  To that end, on behalf of our five million members across the country, we urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence.”

As a result of the alleged use of bump stocks by mass murderer Stephen Paddock, nine Republican Senators have called on the ATF to review bump stocks. Interestingly enough, one of the U.S. Senate’s top gun control proponents — Senator Dianne Feinstein of California–admitted that no new gun control measures would have prevented the Las Vegas massacre.

Experts say bump stocks decrease accuracy when firing firearms. Here’s more on bump stocks:

bump stock is a sliding stock that speeds up a rifle’s rate of fire by harnessing recoil energy to reset the trigger. Instead of squeezing the trigger, the shooter holds his trigger finger steady while pushing the barrel forward with his other hand, thereby firing a round. The recoil repositions the trigger, and continuing to exert forward pressure on the barrel makes the rifle fire repeatedly. The gun still fires just once per trigger pull, so it is still a semiautomatic (and therefore legal), but it fires faster than it would if the shooter had to bend his trigger finger each time.

 

Whether or not bump stocks will be regulated detracts from the greater issue at hand: no gun control measures would have stopped the crazed Vegas shooter from perpetrating the evil act he did. It’s time to hold individuals, not tools, accountable for their criminal behavior.

If you wish to help the Las Vegas shooting victims, donate to the official fund here.