There is a bipartisan coalition of Republican and Democratic representatives who are advocating for a bill to ban the possession of bump-stock devices. While the likelihood of the bill passing is still not as likely as any other gun control measure, its presence should not be shrugged off by gun owners, because the bill contains provisions that set the table for confiscation of legally purchased products, and worse.
The bill, introduced by Congressmen Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), claims to “prohibit the manufacture, possession, or transfer of any part or combination of parts that is designed and functions to increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun, and for other purposes.”
Notice how the language of the bill is crafted; read it again if you have to, and really think about the wording – there are two specific things about the linguistic construction that make this particular proposal a slippery slope for any gun owner. (The slippery slope is considered a logical fallacy, but in the political world it’s pretty easy to see that it’s not really all that fallacious).
First off, as Reason Magazine notes, the bill retroactively criminalizes possession of the bump-stock devices even if they were purchased legally before the ban was enacted (if that happens). That means the government will have to confiscate these devices, one way or another.
Libertarian-leaning Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky worries about this retroactive criminalization. It sets the stage for further action that severely jeopardizes not only the right to bear arms, but also one’s privacy rights.
“Are the manufacturers going to be compelled by the government to turn over lists of customers who legally acquired [products] that were declared by the regulatory authority to be legal?” he wonders. “This could set the precedent for a gun grab if you’re retroactively banning these things.”
That’s certainly a serious question – I would go further than that and question if the law would also be an illegal ex post facto law, something that is expressly forbidden by Article I, section ix of the Constitution.
“No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.”
It is because of that clause of the Constitution that all-out confiscation measures are doubly problematic for gun-grabbers; they cannot infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, and they cannot make laws that make a certain action retroactively illegal.
Possession of the devices would be illegal 90 days after the bill became law. Even if one had purchased the device legally, it would then become illegal to possess. The only way to legitimately enforce this law is by confiscation, by finding out sales records, searching those who have bought the devices. It’s simply a matter of fact.
But it just gets worse as one looks at the language of the bill. While the bill advocates for an explicitly unconstitutional ex post facto law, the language also enables one to read into it whatever they want regarding devices that enhance the rate of fire on a given firearm.
The bill’s licentiously ambiguous language (which was done by design) enables one to easily read into the law that other devices, like upgraded triggers, are also illegal, as they can enable a user to fire the gun more quickly.
Don’t think that the Statists will not find a way to make that happen; they will do whatever they can, use whatever loopholes, ambiguities, and little tricks to carry out their objectives. Your property rights do not matter, your right to bear arms does not matter, the rule of law does not matter.
They simply must do anything within their power to restrict the sphere of the individual’s freedom, especially regarding firearms ownership.
The bump-stock bill seems ostensibly irrelevant, but upon a close examination of what the bill would really do, anyone who wants to protect their gun rights, property rights, privacy rights, and the rule of law must oppose this bill.