Saturday’s edition of the Washington Post featured an article about warnings from senior officials in the Department of Justice to acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker over the new ban on bump stocks.
The officials are not only worried that signing off on the ban could come back to bite Whitaker in the butt, they’re worried that the ban could be declared illegal because Whitaker may not have the legal authority to approve it.
While there are plenty of grounds for concern about Whitaker’s actions and impact in other areas, the bump-stock ban isn’t one of them.
Trump and McConnell can afford to wait until the next session of Congress to confirm Whitaker. This will allow the new members of the Senate, who are more conservative than the legislators they replaced (yes, I know the GOP lost two seats to progressive candidates, but they picked up four seats, increasing the Republican majority to 53).
What does this mean? With Jeff Flake gone, Susan Collins’ vote is no longer crucial to confirmation of Trump appointments for the next two years. If Trump and McConnell want Whitaker approved, he will be confirmed. That will most likely make any questions about the legality of his approvals moot.
One more reason the Democrats’ failure to win control of the Senate in two consecutive elections could be far more damaging to the progressive agenda in both the short term and long term than many realize.
In truth, the new ban is victory for both sides of the gun debate. Democrats, progressives and gun control advocates can cheer their victory in a relatively small debate; Republicans, conservatives and gun rights group can cheer because the ban will certainly be headed to the Supreme Court and it’s likely that a federal judge will issue at least a temporary injunction preventing it from becoming effective.
The ban itself faces an uncertain future. There are numerous grounds for challenges on constitutional grounds. The challenges involve the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments in addition to procedural challenges over whether the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Justice Department even have the authority to make such a rule. it might surprise a lot of people to learn that a bump stock does not meet the legal requirements for a part that converts a rifle to a machine gun.
In order to be classified as a machine gun, a part must alter the mechanism to fire more than one shot with one pull of the trigger. A bump stock doesn’t do this. Each pull of the trigger still fires only one shot; a bump stock simply makes those trigger pulls far more rapid. In addition, a bump stock is not the only way to increase a semi-automatic firearm’s (rifle, shotgun or handgun) rate of fire.
Rest assured that gun rights activists and groups are well aware of the defects and have filed or will be filing lawsuits to challenge the ban’s legality. Gun control activists will soon be educated on the reality that the NRA isn’t what they think it is. In fact, ban fans will discover that the NRA is generally more moderate than other groups.