Adult Onset Atheist

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bump Fire Ban Victory Almost

It appears as if “bump fire” devices will be banned at the federal, and several state, levels soon. The devices have no champions, and the manufacturers have begun stopping production and selling off their inventory in order to cut their losses when the ban goes into effect. The future ban is appears so certain that many people are only wondering which ban it will be.

Even the NRA has come out saying that legal control measures for “bump fire” devices would not be the end of human civilization as we know it. This is probably the highest praise for any legislation controlling anything associated with guns that the NRA can offer.

Undoubtedly the reasoned arguments, like those put forward in this blog, contributed significantly to the momentum of the ban proposals. However, there were two important revelations that were very significant, and which I missed entirely. They are:

1) Obama did it

The ATF review for the “bump fire” devices was completed in 2010, and therefore Obama is responsible for making them legal. This means that by focusing attention on the “bump fire” devices GOP legislators, and the NRA, can blame Obama for the Route 91 Harvest Festival Massacre. This also means that it is possible to ban the “bump fire” devices by simply reversing an Obama-era decision, and that doesn’t sound like the slippery slope that voting for a ban proposed by the anti-gun Diane Feinstein does.

2) The GOP has has a better bill

In fact there might be several house and senate bills, and state bills too, that will ban the “bump fire” devices. Everyone’s bill is the best, and some are calling for hearings to craft the best bill, but it is highly likely that one bill will get to the floor first and get enough votes to become law. The bills and proposed bills appear so similar that the only major defining feature I can see is that Diane Feinstein’s name is not on the ones most likely to pass.

This does make congress appear like it is some bad high-school drama. Not a drama put on by the theater nerds of some high school (I remember a truncated version of Samuel Becket’s “Waiting for Godot” that we called “Stopping for Godot”), but like some flashy Disney movie where people talked mean and dressed in just the right stuff. I think congress should try to be a musical! They could pipe music in through some of the CSPAN electrical tangle, and wire the podiums for autotune.

High School Musical 33.3: Mean Girls go to Washington!

Though this distracting low-brow political sideshow is a little amusing, we shouldn’t lose sight of the prize. It looks like we will get a real ban on “bump fire” devices!

This is not “the” fix for gun violence in America. However, it is a slight repair. If this ban were in effect a year ago it is highly likely that several, probably more than a dozen, people would be alive or uninjured today who instead were riddled by indiscriminately fired bullets on the night of October 1st 2017.

It is (at least will be very soon) an ever so slightly better world. Thank you!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Bump Fire Ban Momentum

The idea of a “bump fire” device ban is gaining traction. Unfortunately the madness that attends to many discussions of gun control legislation in America threatens to swamp it in its wake.

Several salient points that I did not drive home in my call to action on a “bump fire” ban should be helping the forward momentum of a “bump fire” ban.

Firstly, the “bump fire” style device is widely seen as an accessory, and not an “arm” as protected in the second amendment. This means that banning them would not be an infringement of the second amendment rights so fiercely protected in the US.

Secondly, many “gun experts” have come forward describing the “bump fire” device as being of no tactical value. Firing a gun fitted with the device is described as much more difficult to control than a fully automatic weapon. There are lots of self-aggrandizing “experts” on firearms; YouTube is full of them. I am sure there are YouTube “experts” who take time off of arguing the finer points of one type of ammunition vs another to have all sorts of opinions on everything. However, I have noticed a large agreement amongst most of the non-random selection of “experts” whom have spoken with me or posted on the subject of “bump fire” devices. Here is an exchange I heard on National Public Radio during my drive home yesterday; Robert Siegal of NPR is interviewing Paul Glasco who is the gun “expert” behind "Legally Armed America."
Robert Siegel: What's the point of it?
Paul Glasco: You wouldn't find any - I don't think any responsible gun owner has any real practical use for it.

Thirdly, even several GOP legislators who have been made aware of the legality of the device, and the rickety way in which it is designed to operate, have expressed dismay that such a device is widely available.

And finally, the “bump fire” style device can be banned for a number of reasons. The fact that its use in the Route 91 harvest music festival massacre likely resulted in more deaths than a single gunman could have otherwise caused is forefront in my mind, but it is not the only reason why these devices should be banned. These devices make the firearm more dangerous to the shooter and unintended targets. So these firearm accessories could be banned simply from a consumer protection standpoint.

Unfortunately the currently proposed ban is emerging in a hyper-partisan political climate that threatens it as a result of factors completely unconnected to the merits of a ban. Rather than have a legislator who is perceived to be somewhat neutral, or at least unencumbered by past actions, introduce a “bump fire” ban bill, the bill was introduced by Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein’s baggage makes it likely that some members of congress will vote against the ban just to appear like they are voting against Feinstein. Because she has been so outspoken on gun control the ban bill inevitably looks like the first step down that slippery slope that has caused so much fear that gun control legislation has been impossible for years.

Should the bump fire stock be banned? Simply, no. It would only be banned because it was used in the Las Vegas shooting, not because it increased the shooter’s effectiveness. That can be proven. Why ban something that can be proven to be less effective than a standard semi-automatic rifle? And we know what would happen if they were banned. Then the left would suddenly agree that the bump fire is less effective and that the AR-15 was the issue and they’d then focus on modern sporting rifles saying they are more deadly then the accessory they just banned. -- Paul Glasco in a 5 October essay called "Why banning bump fire stocks is not the answer"

The knee-jerk response to the ban is evident. Paul Glasco, who on October 4th provided some good reasons why a ban on "bump fire" devices was a good thing (as I quoted earlier in this post), wrote an essay on October 5th describing how banning them would be a defeat for gun rights that would start us down a slippery slope. We need to make it clear that "bump fire" devices are not "arms" and banning them would not infringe on 2nd amendment rights; even if Diane Feinstein is the one who introduced the "bump fire" ban legislation.

The partisan taint was inevitable given the current status of our federal representative bodies. It is all the more important that we, as concerned citizens, make it clear to our representatives that we do not consider this a partisan or gun control issue. This ban is about eliminating an accessory that is useless and unnecessarily dangerous.

I personally understand the idea of an adrenaline rush from discharging what simulates a fully automatic weapon. I’ve played too many hours of Fallout 4, and I’ve sent many small pellets of lead into paper targets. The “bump stock” device’s sole purpose is to provide that pleasant little rush. Pleasant little rushes should be available to people. However, the social cost of this one is just too high.

Here is how to find contact information for your senators:

Here is how to find contact information for your congressman:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bump Fire Ban

Important details about the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival massacre will be emerging for some time. Already we appear to be involved in some kind of ideological trench warfare. The talking points on all sides of gun control arguments have been dusted off. The paranoid elements of the right have concocted a bunch of disgusting conspiracy theories. People who simply care but do not want to devote their lives to whatever flavor of “the cause” can feel their eyes beginning to glaze over.

This was so significant a tragedy that the stalemate might be broken, but I doubt it. I certainly cannot wade into the fray and make a brand new perfect argument about any of the big issues. I think there are good arguments, but I am not going to repeat them here in order to sound intensely moral. Would any of you readers believe me if I did? Didn’t think so.

There was one thing about the massacre that caught my attention, and I thought it would be worthwhile to put in a plea for a limited set of social action that would yield real but limited results.

I think we should call for a federal ban on “bump fire” (aka “slide fire”) modifications to semi-automatic firearms. Specifically, I think we should call for a ban on “any modification to a firearm whose purpose is to allow the firearm to be operated in a way that is or mimics fully automatic or burst fire action”. Fully automatic or burst fire action firearms are tightly controlled by federal law, and modifications that make a firearm operate in ways that closely mimic that action are objectively designed to circumvent well established federal law.

Stephen Paddock used a “bump fire” device to operate semi-automatic rifles continuously at rates that could have surpassed 900 rounds per minute. This is many times the rate typically clocked for standard semi-automatic fire. This contributed greatly to his ability to cause damage and panic.

The “bump fire” device is viewed by many firearm owners as a toy. It is an overpriced at $50.00 attachment that provides little in the way of enhancement to the $1,000.00 rifle it is designed to attach to. People by them because firing a “bump fire” equipped rifle almost feels like one is firing a real machine gun. Even the mindset needed to consider it is one where the firearm is viewed as a toy where the “bump fire” modification provides more kicks and giggles. What should have been obvious long before Las Vegas was that, no matter how many toy-like gadgets you attach to a gun, a firearm is not a toy.

The “bump fire” style modification kit essentially provides a sliding stock with a spring at the back. Unlike standard stocks that are designed to hold the firearm securely so that a target can be accurately acquired the “bump fire” stock allows the firearm to loosely slide back and forth. When a round is fired from the rifle the recoil pushes it back into the “bump fire” stock where it compresses a spring. When the rifle slides back into the “bump fire” stock the trigger is moved backwards away from the trigger finger. When the spring pushes the rifle forward the trigger on the rifle is brought back into contact with the trigger finger resting on the “bump fire” stock and the trigger is pulled which fires the rifle again. This allows the rifle to fire as fast as it can rattle back and forth in the “bump fire” stock. It really is that simple, but I made an animated GIF to illustrate it anyway.

Because a flesh and blood finger comes into contact with the trigger each time the rifle fires this was considered a legal loophole to the federal laws controlling fully automatic weapons. We should close that loophole now.


There is no reasonably argued reason why anyone needs to be able to spray bullets towards a target. This sort of device is inherently unsafe even when it is not in the hands of a madman.

We should be able to eliminate these devices from the marketplace without fighting the main battles of the gun control wars of ideology. Eliminating them will make America safer. If they were not available the number of dead and wounded in Las Vegas would have been less; perhaps a lot less.

This doesn’t solve all the problems, nor does it address many of the gun control issues. However, it is real and actionable good that can make a measurable difference. We should do this!

So… how do we do this?

Basically we call, write, or somehow communicate with our federal representatives (congress: House and Senate) and ask them to plug this loophole in federal law.

Here is how to find contact information for your senators:

Here is how to find contact information for your congressman:

Simply asking them to write or support legislation that closes the “bump fire” loophole should be enough. If they want you to spell it out for them perhaps you could say something like “ban any modification to a firearm whose purpose is to allow the firearm to be operated in a way that is or mimics fully automatic or burst fire action”. Feel free to use or distribute the GIF I made if that helps make things clear.