I'm copying and pasting my response to the bump stock thread into a separate topic so that it can be seen by a larger audience. I was compelled to write this after logically thinking through Trump's bump stock ban announcement and the wording he used to describe it.
"[...asked the DoJ to] propose regulations to ban all devices to turn legal weapons into machine guns..."
This strikes me as a very legaleze statement. Note that he doesn't say "propose regulations to ban bump stocks". He instead uses the unnecessarily drawn-out "turn legal weapons into machine guns."
Machine guns have a very specific, black-and-white definition under federal law: any weapon which, with a single pull of the trigger, can fire multiple rounds at a time. Semi-automatic fire is defined as any weapon which, with a single pull of the trigger, can only fire one round at a time. "Machine gun" can also refer to the legally registered part that renders a firearm fully-automatic, such as the full-auto sear in an AR-15.
The ATF authorized the sale of bump stocks and trigger cranks after examining the devices and determining that they don't turn semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. Wait, how is that possible? people ask. Haven't you seen these things in action? How is that NOT fully-automatic fire?
To which I ask them: how many bullets fire per pull of the trigger?
I ask them to look closely at a bump stock in action. What's the shooter's trigger finger doing? I ask them. Is it holding down the trigger the entire time?
No, they answer. The trigger is being pulled again and again.
And how many rounds per trigger pull are being fired? I ask them.
One shot per trigger pull. Nevermind the fact that these devices allow you to pull that trigger more quickly, you're still being forced to release the trigger after every shot, and press it again to fire another, singular round, over and over, always letting go of the trigger before you can fire another shot. They're nothing more than a mechanical device that simulates the act of slapping the trigger with your finger. They aren't, and cannot be classified as machine guns because they cannot fire multiple rounds per pull of the trigger. They are not "devices [that] turn legal weapons into machine guns..." That's why the ATF allowed them in the first place.
So what's gonna happen here?
Sessions will remind the President (and the public) of what the NFA says, about the differences between a machine gun and a semi-automatic weapon, remind him of why the ATF made the decision they did, and why they cannot make any other determination given the current definitions as they exist under federal law. He'll remind us that there's only two ways to ban bump stocks under existing federal law:
- A congressional act that purposely targets bump stocks, etc. and bans them, or:
- Redefining and blurring the purposeful, black-and-white definition in federal law that differentiates between a machine gun and a semi-automatic weapon, the functional differences between each, and thereby allow Congress to outlaw rapid semi-automatic gunfire, ignoring the obvious subjectivity that entails.
Trump will then, like with DACA, go on TV and say "well folks, there you have it, we can't just have the DoJ outlaw bump stocks, Congress needs to act. Right, Congress? They heard the man, now they have to act. Like with DACA, the DoJ and I cannot act unilaterally here."
And then nothing happens. The GOP isn't stupid enough to piss off their base by passing some stupid gun control law. As for the Democrats, they'll stupidly support such a measure and whine when it fails or doesn't get called for a vote.
In an election year when more Democrats are up for reelection in states Trump won than the other way around.
Like with DACA, I think Trump is trying to get the Democrats to commit political suicide by getting yet another constituency to turn against them. Trump's legal advisors likely informed him of these distinctions. He knows he cannot just come out and say "let's ban bump stocks" without costing himself significant support amongst gun owners. At the same time, the rabid gun control movement, the media, the Democrats, and everybody on the left will complain that "Trump doesn't care about the dying children, he cares more about the dirty NRA's lobbying dollars."
So what are you supposed to do, then, if you're him and you're facing this dilemma? Don't do anything, one side criticizes him. Do something, and he loses vital support.
So the workaround is to craft a purposely legalistic statement that, on the surface, appears to express a desire to pursue some new regulations, but when examined in depth turns out to be a completely (and purposely) meaningless statement. In turn, this forces the DoJ to state the obvious ("we can't do anything, Congress has to") thereby tossing the hot potato to Congress and letting them be the bad guys. GOP doesn't act, Democrats try and fail, and thereby paint themselves as the party of higher taxes, more gun control, and general anti-American sentiment. That'll work wonderfully in the red states come November.
Personally I'm not gonna worry about this development. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong, but as it stands I suspect this is gonna turn into a big pile of nothing.