USA – -(Ammoland.com)- “A few days ago (yes, days), I submitted a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act Request] to ATF and FBI regarding bumpstocks and the Las Vegas shooting,” attorney Stephen Stamboulieh announced Saturday.
“Today I received a CD with 777 pages of information, which you can review at the following links:
“The FBI has not responded to its FOIA yet.” [See “Update” below.]
It’s evident that the government continues to withhold information for reasons it will not state. Case in point, this is what we're allowed to see of ATF’s memorandum to the Department of Justice on “Legality of ‘Bump-Fire’ Rifle Stocks” (Vol. 1, pp 671-674):
This is a power-grab by the executive branch that will set the tone for this and future administrations to arbitrarily change definitions, impose bans with destruction/surrender orders and turn non-compliant citizens into felons, all while bypassing Congress.
It’s not hard to imagine what a Democrat president would do if such power becomes the accepted norm. It's not hard to imagine them taking full and gleeful advantage of it, with fawning media support and no shortage of appointed-for-life activist federal judges eager to rule in favor of infringements.
That’s despite the Trump administration's new efforts and justifications contradicting not just what ATF/DOJ previously stated in rulings, but what they just last year asserted in federal court and argued to a judge.
From their position as stated on July 27, 2017:
“Bump firing is the process of using the recoil of a semiautomatic firearm to fire in rapid succession, simulating the effect of an automatic firearm when performed with a high level of skill and precision by the shooter… The rapid fire sequence in bump firing is contingent on shooter input, rather than mechanical input, and thus cannot shoot automatically”
From their position as stated on Sept. 13, 2017 (scroll to page 8):
“[B]ecause of the manual, skill based methods required to operate a bump fire device they are not machineguns.”
What has changed? Besides a political position ordered by superiors who would not be qualified to intern at the Firearms Technology Branch…? Essentially, the FTB's supposedly science/physics-based position is being politically overridden.
In January, this column reported on the Congressional Research Service report from the prior October titled “Gun Control: ‘Bump-Fire’ Stocks.” The report had been posted online by the Federation of American Scientists, a group I’ve reported on before 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 make its reports available to the public, despite our tax dollars funding them.
CRS issued a new report last Wednesday titled “ATF’s Ability to Regulate “Bump Stocks,” again posted online by the FAS. Among the considerations for Congress:
“[T]he scope of ATF’s authority to regulate bump stock devices is a creature of statute, and Congress can act (within the scope of constitutional parameters) to expand or curtail this authority. For example, if Congress wants to give ATF clear authority to regulate bump stocks, it could do so by (1) expressly directing ATF to initiate rulemaking to ban bump stocks within a certain timeline and/or (2) amending the definition of “machinegun” under the NFA and GCA so that bump stocks necessarily will fall under that definition. Alternatively, Congress, through its taxation powers (a constitutional basis for the NFA) and commerce powers (the constitutional basis for the GCA) potentially could ban or otherwise regulate bump stocks through independent legislation.”
Both reports, the one from October and this latest, avoid one question altogether:
Why? What’s the critical need for such drastic action and usurping of such powers?
Some of us find it curious that there is no mention of crimes committed nationwide using bump stocks, and of shootings committed with them in either report. Yet they are supposed to guide our representatives in crafting and justifying legislation.
What about Las Vegas? Authorities have been holding their cards close to the vest. While bump fire stocks were reported found in the suspected shooter’s hotel room, where are the official reports that the devices were used?
While the CRS report says “the perpetrator of the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, had attached to his semiautomatic firearms an accessory that allowed his rifles to effectively mimic the firing capabilities of a fully automatic weapon,” it does not acknowledge guns found at the scene that did not have such devices attached. including eight AR-10 rifles, nor identify which firearms were used.
“By using several AR-type rifles with attached bump-stock-type devices, the shooter was able to fire several hundred rounds of ammunition in a short period of time, killing 58 people and injuring over 800,” the proposed rule nonetheless states. What it does not do is credit its source to make that definitive claim. Are they citing local law enforcement? ATF’s FTB? Can we see what they’re working from? Why not?
We should also consider that, per the proposed rule, “the number of bump-stock-type devices held by the public could range from about 280,000 to about 520,000.” How many of these have actually been used in violent crimes (not merely found or recovered during a raid for something else)?
Before we allow the government to start apportioning blame, imposing new restrictions, coercing the relinquishment of private property and creating new felony charges with which to ensnare heretofore law-abiding gun owners, don’t we deserve to know the documented scope of the threat so that an appropriate level of response, if any, can be determined? We know what weapons the Las Vegas Sheriff says were recovered from the alleged shooter’s hotel room, and based on reports that have been released, we can see that many of them were claimed to be equipped with bump-fire stocks. What we don’t have verifiable documentation for is if any of those weapons were actually used or, until we are given access to Firearms Technology Branch analyses, if any had been converted to full-auto.
If such concerns seem far-fetched and unnecessarily distrustful, ask yourself: Who is trying to ram through a power grab while reversing prior legal findings, operating in secrecy, and deliberately withholding information until after the deed is done? Is that the way a government established “to secure the Blessings of Liberty” is supposed to function?
To exploit this level of uncertainty with this level of heavy-handed and premature political posturing — carrying very real consequences for compliance “violations” — is not something gun owners, who put the Trump administration in power, should be expected to stand for.
Anyone who thinks this is just about “bump stocks” has not been paying attention to the implications of the executive branch assuming such perpetual undelegated, and thus unlawful, power.
UPDATE: The FBI has responded. They claim they have no way of knowing how many “bump stocks” have been used in crimes and the FOIA law doesn't require them to be responsive.
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.