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Will Trump Learn from Bump Stock Battering?

by | Jun 18, 2024

Will Trump Learn from Bump Stock Battering?

by | Jun 18, 2024

strong powerful confident long haired caucasian woman in a black tank top holding big black rifle with loupe preparing for a shooting competition. medium outdoor shot.

The Supreme Court last Friday struck down one of the most controversial gun control edicts in recent years. The ruling on bump stocks is being widely hailed as a victory for an expansive reading of the Second Amendment. But it is also a stark rebuke to Donald Trump’s dictatorial tendencies and his Presidential Magic Felony Wand.

On October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds from his window in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas into a crowd attending a country music concert below. Sixty people were killed, and more than four-hundred wounded. Paddock was using a bump stock, an attachment to rifles that enables speedy scattershot fire.

President Trump responded to the carnage by vowing that “bump stocks are going to be gone.” Trump declared, “I’m writing that [ban order] out myself. I don’t care if Congress does it or not.” Trump discovered a new constitutional loophole for topics that spur frenetic presidential tweets.

Bump stocks had not been used in any other mass shooting. Federal agencies had repeatedly ruled that bump stocks were unregulated firearm parts that did not convert semiautomatic weapons into machine guns, which are severely restricted by federal law. Gun owners purchased half a million bump stocks after the feds labeled them legal to possess. Regardless, Trump tweeted that “we will BAN all devices that turn legal weapons into illegal machine guns.” Trump’s edict would turn hundreds of thousands of peaceful gun owners into felons.

In 2018, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency reclassified guns with bump stocks as illegal machine guns because “such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger.” But that was not how bump stocks actually operate. Even Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a perennial gun control champion, admitted that the Trump administration’s position “hinges on a dubious analysis claiming that bumping the trigger is not the same as pulling it.”

Trump’s power grab sparked plenty of judicial backlashes before Friday’s high court ruling. In March 2021, a federal appeals court struck down the ban, ruling, “It is not the role of the executive—particularly the unelected administrative state—to dictate to the public what is right and what is wrong.” A U.S. Navy/Marine Corps Court of Appeals overturned a bump stock conviction based on “the instinctive distaste against men languishing in prison unless the lawmaker has clearly said they should.”

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, declared, “A bump stock does not convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does.” The court ruled that the ATF “exceeded its statutory authority by issuing a Rule that classifies a bump stock as a ‘machinegun.’”

Anyone who failed to destroy or surrender their bump stock faced a penalty of $250,000 and up to ten years in prison. The New Civil Liberties Alliance tweeted that Friday’s “decision comes too late to restore bump stocks to the hundreds of thousands of lawful owners who turned them in or destroyed them in response to ATF’s unlawful and irresponsible rulemaking.”

Actually, after the federal ban took effect, the ATF reported that “less than 1% of gun owners turned in their bump stocks.” However, many bump stocks were reportedly lost in boating accidents.

The Supreme Court decision provoked fainting spells among the usual suspects. New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin wailed, “The horrifying consequences of this ruling will be felt for decades to come.”

The court decision outraged many leftists who presumed that simply confirming that a gun is a firearm should suffice to banish it. “A recurring feature of right wing jurisprudence, especially in guns and abortion cases, is the use of minor semantic justifications to unleash unfathomable amounts of carnage and human suffering,” declared Guardian columnist Moira Donegan.

Many liberals are prone to define “automatic weapon” as “any gun that fires too many bullets.” As the Gun Owners of America commented on the decision, “This critical ruling protects your AR-15 from a tyrannical ATF ban. If bump stocks were machine guns, then all semiautomatic firearms could also have been banned as illegal machine guns. SCOTUS has now closed that door.”

Justice Sandra Sotomayor, writing for the dissent, lamented: “Today, the Court puts bump stocks back in civilian hands.” Actually, the bump stocks had been there all along. The Washington Post noted that law enforcement agencies did not use bump stocks because they made guns fire inaccurately. Sotomayor said the ban should have been upheld in order to stop gun owners’ “evasion” of gun bans. By continuing to own guns, for instance?

Trump campaign press secretary Karoline Leavitt responded to the bump stock ruling, “The Court has spoken and their decision should be respected.” Her statement also declared, “Joe Biden wants to take that right [to keep and bear arms] away from law-abiding Americans. President Trump won’t let that happen.”

But stopping Biden from trampling the Second Amendment isn’t enough: gun owners also need protection from Trump. After a 2018 school shooting, Trump announced, “I like taking the guns early…Take the guns first, go through due process second.” With that line, Trump sounded like Biden even before Uncle Joe was led to a Delaware podium.

Unfortunately, Trump had plenty of decrees and proclamations during his presidency that justifiably spooked observers. In late 2017, Trump boasted of “an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.” Shortly after Trump endorsed “15 days to slow the spread” and embraced a deluge of disastrous COVID policies, he proclaimed, “The federal government has absolute power. It has the power. As to whether or not I’ll use that power, we’ll see.” Ironically, Trump was vilified by the media in 2020 for not behaving even more oppressively.

President Biden is deriding Trump for “echoing the same exact language used in Nazi Germany” and liberals are portraying the prospect of a second Trump presidency as the death of democracy. Trump can boost confidence in his constitutional fidelity by openly admitting and renouncing the constitutional abuses of his first term, including his bump stock ban. Admitting his fallibility might even endear him to voters who do not view him as the second coming of George Washington.

Jim Bovard

Jim Bovard

Jim Bovard is a Senior Fellow for the Libertarian Institute and author of the newly published, Last Rights: The Death of American Liberty (2023). His other books include Public Policy Hooligan (2012), Attention Deficit Democracy (2006), Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994), and seven others. He is a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and has also written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, The Washington Post, among others. His articles have been publicly denounced by the chief of the FBI, the Postmaster General, the Secretary of HUD, and the heads of the DEA, FEMA, and EEOC and numerous federal agencies.

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