Saturday, January 20, 2018

Comment On Proposed Rulemaking Regarding Bump Fire Stocks

I submitted my comment to the BATFE today regarding Docket Number 2017R-22 which is the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding treating bump fire stocks as "machine guns". My full comment is below and you are free to cut and paste whatever you want from it.

I did try to answer the questions that they posed for consumers before I said the way the law is currently written does not allow them to classify bump fire stocks as machine guns.

Docket No. 2017R-22
RIN 1140–AA52
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
Comment on Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

First, to answer the questions posed by the ANPRM:

Q. 21: a) I have never seen bump fire stock devices for sale in gun stores. This may be a factor of the size or type of the gun store that I patronize. b) I have seen one bump fire stock device for sale at the two most recent gun shows that I attended. It was for sale by a private individual. c) The most common place for these devices to be sold is online directly from the manufacturer.

Q. 22: The price range of the bump fire stock devices online is between $150 and $300. I was told anecdotally by a vendor at the last gun show I attended that the one bump fire stock that I had seen for sale was being sold for $1,200.

Q. 23: The one person I know who does own a bump fire stock is a wheel-chair bound paraplegic who installed it on a semi-automatic shotgun for self-defense in the home. As to the claims of the manufacturers, that I cannot answer as I’m not aware of what they state is the intended purpose for a bump fire stock device.

Second, I would like to respond as to whether a bump fire stock device would fall into the statutory definition of a machine gun as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Per the NFA Handbook, a machine gun is “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. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun, and any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.” This was the definition used by the Firearms Technology Division when it examined the Slide Fire bump stock. As Richard Vasquez, then the ATF’s Senior Technical Expert, who conducted the examination noted the Slide Fire stock was “not designed to shoot with a single function of the trigger.” Designed is the key word. He went on to say:

The Slide Fire does not fire automatically with a single pull/function of the trigger. It is designed to reciprocate back and forth from the inertia of the fired cartridge. When firing a weapon with a Slide Fire, the trigger finger sits on a shelf and the trigger is pulled into the trigger finger. Once the rifle fires the weapon, due to the push and pull action of the stock and rifle, the rifle will reciprocate sufficiently to recock and reset the trigger. It then reciprocates forward and the freshly cocked weapon fires again when the trigger strikes the finger on its forward travel.

ATF Ruling 2006-2 sought to expand the definition of what constitutes a “machine gun”. It equated one pull of the trigger with a single function of the trigger. This was based upon BATFE’s reading of the legislative history of the National Firearms Act. However, even that definition would not apply to bump fire stocks such as the one from Slide Fire Solutions. That is because it doesn’t rely on springs, blocks, rods, etc. which “result in a weapon that shoots more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single pull of the trigger” and thus is a machine gun.

Third, to base any new rule or law upon a single outlying event such as that which happened in the Mandelay Bay shootings in Las Vegas results in bad law and bad policy. This will also bring into existence the law of unintended consequences. If one reads the proposed laws before Congress that seek to outlaw bump fire stocks in a knee-jerk reaction to the shootings, it is clear that a broad reading would include any trigger job, lighter buffer spring, and all after-market triggers. A rough or heavy stock trigger is more likely to cause a shot to go astray and to cause serious bodily injury or death than a replacement.

Finally, it is not the job of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to use regulation to change the meaning of the law. If Congress wants to change the definition of a machine gun, they should pass such a law. They should not pass the buck to the BATFE due to their own inability to agree on new legislation. Any proposed or anticipated rulemaking should be ended until such time as Congress changes the law.


  1. The last two paragraphs of your comment mirror nearly exactly my comments made to various elected representatives and to the BATFE. Judging by the responses from elected representatives (few they be) I believe that the BATFE will not care a wit; they will push through their proposed redefinition of terms and it will become statute.

    Thank you for commenting on the BATFE NPRM. My efforts over the past several weeks to make citizens, including present or future owners of firearms, aware of this subject have seemed to be futile. I shake my head at the apparent apathy noted particularly of the firearm owners I've contacted.