USA – -(Ammoland.com)- The public comment period is over for citizen input on proposed rulemaking on “‘Bump Fire’ Stocks and Other Similar Devices” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That means it’s too late to add findings from a Congressional Research Service assessment that was published last October, but deliberately withheld from public dissemination as a matter of standard practice.
I was just made privy to that paper, posted online by the Federation of American Scientists. That’s a group I’ve reported on before both for AmmoLand on and the War on Guns blog (and elsewhere), for issues ranging from ATF funding, to so-called “assault weapon” bans and more. Founded by former Manhattan Project scientists, the group takes it on itself to posts such reports because the CRS, essentially a Library of Congress issues “think tank” for federal legislators—does not generally make its reports available to the public, despite our tax dollars funding them. Attempts have been made in the past to change that through legislation, but “our” representatives have never been sufficiently motivated to share such information influencing their decision-making with their constituents.
That’s wrong, because we deserve to know why they come to some of the conclusions they do, and in this case, the paper highlighted a distinction more gun owners should have known about if for no other reason than to be able to argue precedent in the comments they submitted.
“On December 13, 2006 … ATF … reclassified bump-fire systems like the Akins Accelerator as a machinegun, because it was equipped with a ‘coiled spring’ and initiated automatic fire with a single trigger pull,” the report states. “In an unpublished decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld ATF's decision.”
Conversely, “Other manufacturers submitted modified ‘bump-fire’ or ‘slide-fire’ stocks that did not include a ‘coiled spring’ or similar mechanisms to the ATF for classification,” the report notes. “From the ATF rulings discussed above, it appears that bump-fire stocks with ‘coiled springs’ and that initiate automatic fire with a single trigger pull are regulated as firearms under the NFA; however, modified stocks without any ‘automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs’ are not similarly regulated.”
No matter your thoughts on Akins, that’s what the report advising Congress says. And because such reports are withheld from “just us citizens,” it was not available for gun owners to cite in their comments. No doubt industry insiders and a handful of technically-oriented gun owners are well-versed in such rulings and history, but the fact remains that such information was relevant to the comments being solicited but its dissemination was restricted.
For the record, I’ve long maintained Akins got screwed over big time, I see no Constitutional basis for ATF to even exist, and I subscribe to Tench Coxe’s contention that “Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American.”
That said, a means of influencing outcomes is denied when information that should be available to all is not. We shouldn’t need to find out from third parties when it’s too late to make a difference. But unless a national organization takes point on urging members to contact their representatives to change that, expect the status quo to continue undisturbed.
UPDATE: Bill Akins elaborates in “Comments,” below.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.
In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.