In the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle proposed that bump stocks — a device that can increase the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle — be banned, or at least more strictly regulated.
Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton have introduced a bipartisan bill designed to ban bump stocks.
The only problem is that this bill is so broadly worded it might lead to mass gun confiscation and some serious legal problems for many gun owners, The Federalist reported.
“It shall be unlawful for any person … to manufacture, possess, or transfer any part or combination of parts that is designed to increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle but does not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun,” reads part of the bill.
There are a couple of problems with this, chief among them is that the bill never actually specifies that it is outlawing bump stocks. By vaguely wording the legislation to say “parts,” the lawmakers could technically be referring to any part of a firearm that could increase the rate of fire. And that, in turn, could effectively lead to banning any semi-automatic firearm, as Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, pointed out in a column last week:
“As a result, the proposal arguably institutes a federal ban on any and all parts that would allow the gun to fire at all, since the mere ability to fire a semi-automatic weapon by definition increases its rate of fire from zero.”
You can read the full text of the bill here.
In addition, the bill makes no mention of whether those who currently own bump stocks will be allowed to keep them. The current wording of the bill would seem to imply that as soon as it is passed, possession would be criminalized for everyone.
It is doubtful that this legislation was some evil masterminded by a Republican to enact a back-door gun control nationwide. Most likely Curbelo was in such a rush to get something proposed that he never stopped to consider the wording/implications of his legislation.
This bill is likely the result of gross incompetence, not malicious intent. However, that does not change the fact that sloppy wording makes it theoretically possible at least that the bill could mean gun confiscation somewhere down the road.
When passing laws that could affect millions of people, wording very much matters. If Congress is going to further regulation bump stocks, it needs to be very clear about how far the legislation does and does not go.
Having some poorly worded piece of legislation will only increase confusion, paranoia and end up putting off taking any sort of meaningful action on something that even the NRA agrees should be more strictly regulated.
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