Former ATF Agent Rick Vasquez (courtesy nbcnews.com)

“We could not find a way to classify it as a machine gun. We did the right thing by the letter of the statutes.” That’s the word from the Former Assistant Chief and Acting Chief of the ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch, speaking to our good friends at The Trace. To answer his critics, Rick Vasquez (above) has penned an explanation for his team’s decision not to regulate or ban the bump fire stock (click here to view). And they weren’t wrong . . .

The Slide Fire bump fire stock submitted for ATF approval didn’t meet the legal definition of a machine gun, which states that a firearm qualifies if it fires “more than one shot with a single function of the trigger.” As you know, bump fire stocks enable multiple rapid single finger presses, but each round requires one trigger press.

So, contrary to NRA Veep Wayne LaPierre’s public admonition, the ATF “did its job.”

In fact, as a TTAG reader pointed out in a previous post, the last thing gun rights advocates want is a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (and Really Big Fires) that feels free to interpret law to arrive at a predetermined outcome.

Former ATF Agent Vasquez isn’t happy with the NRA’s condemnation of his team’s work on bump fire stocks, with the attendant implication that the Bureau should shoulder some of the blame for the Mandalay Bay hotel spree killing.

“We did the right thing by the letter of the statutes,” he said. “There’s a tragedy that happened and nothing can change that. But to try to put the blame on us, it really irritates me.”

Given all the ATF’s long and ignoble history of corruption, illegal enforcement activities (e.g., Fast and Furious) and deeply-held antipathy to Americans’ gun rights, it really irritates me that the NRA chose to criticize the Bureau for this correct decision. In this I’m not alone.

63 Responses to ATF Senior Technical Expert: “We Couldn’t Find a Way to Classify a Bump Fire Stock as a Machine Gun”

  1. Noise, distraction, deflection. Again the conversation is being run by the anti-gun progressives and even the NRA has fallen into the trap. As long as we continue to use their language they win.

    The entire conversation ended December 15, 1791. Whenever we engage any converse contrary to shall not be infringed, we lose, AGAIN.

    • G-man is correct. Why the NRA caved so early is both a mystery and disconcerting. Blinking is not the NRA way, at least not before this incident, and hopefully will not happen again. In case they need advice; not one inch, not one step back, not ever should be the MO.

    • I don’t see it as “falling into the trap”. The NRA stepped willingly into that pit and gave us the finger as they did it. Glad I haven’t sent that Lifetime membership in yet…

  2. I’m glad every major gun personality (other than Hickok) who supported the NRA seems to be “WTF?” on this instead of blind apology.

  3. What I got out of the NRA’s “…public admonition, the ATF ‘did its job.'” was essentially realizing the ATF had already made a sound, legal decision, but was deflecting public outrage and dumping it right back in the laps of the Obama administration and the ATF. On one hand, the author of this post condemns the ATF for it’s history of corruption, etc, then immediately turns around and criticizes the NRA for criticizing the ATF. This whole event has literally driven a percentage of gun owners off the deep end and into the land of delusion and unicorns previously only occupied by liberals, Communists, and snowflakes, to the extent that those three differ.

    • A broken federal agency is right twice a day. Attacking the ATF over one of the few things they got right is counter-intuitive.

    • True: the ATF made the right decision and the ATF sucks. The NRA should not have attacked the ATF for THIS.

      • People do not understand nuance, do they?

        Every position must be extreme and/or absolute or they literally can’t comprehend.

        So they appear to not comprehend a position such as:

        The ATF shouldn’t exist. The NFA shouldn’t exist. The GCA shouldn’t exist. Bump Fire stocks probably shouldn’t exist. Why? Because the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

        But…since they are infringed and we do not really have a 2nd amendment, not truly, then we shouldn’t be attacking the ATF when they actually make a correct decision to not ban something. It should also point back to the stupidity of some of the definitions they work with, such as “short barrel rifles”, “Firearms”, “Any Other Weapons”. All ridiculously absurd stuff that has no business being in reality…but here we are.

        But by all means, NRA, NSSF, etc., let’s not concentrate or worry about THOSE things…

        • My argument regarding the uproar over the NRA (and now NSSF and others) is that the world isn’t perfect, has never been perfect, and will never be perfect. The people arguing that any gun law is an infringement are in fact correct, and they are perfectly justified in being upset. But that’s also not living in the real world. Constitutional purity doesn’t exist with any amendment. There are infringements on all of them. I’d argue the NRA is being very pragmatic here. However, there are obviously some very vocal, angry gun owners who are ideological purists and embrace the (for lack of a better term) “extreme” positions. God bless ’em, but they are setting themselves up for a lifetime of disappointment and rage.

          I think people are frustrated that there has been no movement on pro-gun legislation by the GOP controlled Congress, and that frustration is understandable. I think it’s manifesting itself as vitriol towards the NRA at this point, which, lets face it, is a group that the aforementioned purists probably aren’t even members of. Gun rights are like a game of chess and not so much the black and white issue that some hope they should be.

    • My take is that the NRA (and NSSF) made a tactical decision to appear to be “reasonable” and “thoughtful” with the intention of buying enough time for the Harvey Weinstein fiasco to distract the American public. (Not that they knew anything about Harvey’s proclivities; it’s just that something squirrely would capture the public’s attention).

      I suspect that they knew that the outcome of the ATF’s deliberations would be that ATF made the right decision and that it’s up to Congress to address the issue. More time.

      Now, then, what is the real issue? Is the real issue “bump stocks”? No; that’s a really silly viewpoint. The real issue is to be found somewhere in the text of a proposed bill in Congress. What do we find in Feinstein’s bill, for example.

      NRA is nobody’s fool on Capital Hill. NRA will tie Congressional staffs in knots trying to edit the language of any bill so that belt loops and rubber-bands don’t create an inadvertent jeopardy for a law-abiding citizen (who may or may-not be an AR-15 owner).

      Some of us are altogether too hasty in criticizing the NRA for selling us down-the-river. Today’s NRA is not the same NRA as existed before Cincinnati. It’s not the NRA that supported the NFA. We shouldn’t be so foolish as to imagine that such is the case.

      NRA probably needs to be a voice of “moderation” and “reasonableness” before the general public. At the same time, NAGR and the majority of gun owners can cry “not one more inch!” Congress-critters up for re-election will hear the cry of “not one more inch!” while also not wanting to jeopardize their NRA ratings.

  4. All this is well and good, however too many people are knee-jerk once again blaming the tool and not the person wielding the tool. Even the NRA got that part entirely wrong.

  5. Yes, the ATF did it right. A “bumpfire” device merely enables a semi-automatic firearm to do what it is designed to do faster. Not more accurately. Not more controllably. Just faster.
    The fact a person used these devices to commit a heinous crime is collateral misfortune, and they will likely be banned so the Politicians can claim they “did something”.

    • Faster than what? The cyclic rate of fire is what it is. It is a function of the energy imparted by the round, mass of the BCG, tension of the RSA and friction. Without changing any of those factors the RoF cannot be changed. Most of us are operating a Ferrari as if it was a school bus but the Ferrari was and is always under there someplace just waiting for someone to tear off that big yellow skin and see the beautiful red underneath.

      • That was a wonderful description.

        Miculek – from the OP the other day, clearly rips the Ferrari auto wrap off of the F1.

      • Faster than you can cycle the firearm with your finger, as it was designed. I think you overthought your comment. If you take a Ferrari and put a governor on it so it can only go 50 Mph top speed, you have the reverse of what a bumpfire device does for a semi-automatic firearm. If you take an AR-15 built as a semi-auto and change-out the internals of the trigger/hammer group correctly, you get an M16, but adding a bumpfire stock does not an M-16 make. Capisci?

  6. The statement in itself is CYA with dark request built in.

    The statement demands further, and more stringent legislation. The ATF&E is saying we locked down what we could, you give us more latitude legislatively and we’ll lock down more.

  7. Sooner or later this conversation will morph into the one about rate of fire. None of these devices increases the rate of fire at all. All they do is make it easier to achieve and sustain that rate of fire. And once the anti’s latch onto that then the entire discussion will be used to ban semi-auto firearms because they can shoot too fast. Where the conversation should be headed is that the 2nd Amendment protects the individual right to own arms equal to that of the modern army and that the existing ban on automatic weapons is unconstitutional in the first place. Said it all too many times…

    There are NO restrictions at all upon the free exercise of our rights, none whatsoever. The only right attacked like this is the 2nd. Malum prohibitum laws must never be applied to rights.

    • ^ You are correct…. This is exactly the direction in which the political momentum is moving. Whatever else Paddock was, he was smart enough to foresee that the use of bump stocks in the commission of a mass atrocity would have exactly the political effect that it is having.

  8. I agree the NRA was wrong to blame the ATF. The NRA are such turn coats. They should have just kept their mouths shut. What they said is one of the reasons I have stopped supporating them. I now support The Guns Of America group because they are a no compromise organization.

  9. I call bullshit. Bump stocks are designed to effectively create mechanical automatic fire. If I have a semi auto gun, which malfunctions in a way that creates mechanical full auto fire – under ATF rules and regs it is a ‘machine gun’.

    RF, I disagree with you here. The only purpose of a bump stock is to create mechanical automatic fire. It has no other purpose.

    • The legal difference between your two scenarios is that with the bump fire stock you are pulling the trigger for each round. If say your bolt jams forward and slam fires your gun then one pull of the trigger got you a mag dump and that’s legally an automatic. Now, my question to you is, why shouldn’t we have machine guns?

      • I remember a trick with AR-15s where if the trigger wasn’t fully released, and the sear was worn a bit, you could induce a double-tap, a triple-tap, or even full cyclic.

        If this happened at my range the person was instructed to leave immediately.

        In the US a Federal Court judge ruled accidental automatic fire from trigger manipulation was not illegal. But this did not stop F-Troop from conducting surprise inspections at ranges and making arrests for illegal machine guns based purely on short-resetting triggers.

    • The bump fire’s purpose is irrelevant; the law says nothing about the firearm’s purpose. Nor should it. Read it at the link above.

      • the law says nothing about the firearm’s purpose.

        The law in question is unconstitutional. All laws which infringe upon the free exercise of a right are unconstitutional and therefor null and void. And the only law which matters does say something about the purpose; and it ain’t for hunting deer. We, the body of the People (militia) in order to secure our free States, must be equally armed as any modern army. And certainly that includes machine guns. Our entire national conversation on the topic has been warped by the progressives and all too many of us accept that as reality. It is time to take back the conversation!

        A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

        I wonder if George Washington would have take away bump stocks on AR15’s from his army should they have brought them from their farms.

    • Not arguing against machine guns. Love ’em. Think all Americans should have the right to own them under the 2nd Amendment. I don’t like NFA, but it is the law of the land, and I am law abiding.

      To get technical, with a bump stock one isn’t “pulling the trigger” each time. The finger is stationary, effectively performing an auto sear function while the gun itself reciprocates along a linear X axis mechanically actuating the trigger against a stationary finger.

      Banning bump stocks won’t stop a single criminal act, or save a single life. In fact, and because they are nearly completely uncontrollable (if they were actually used, and the facts of the case seem to be constantly changing), its entirely possible that the shooter was far LESS effective for having used them.

      My point is simply that administratively ATF can, should, and I believe probably will reverse its ruling.

      • MDH,

        “I don’t like NFA, but it is the law of the land …”

        No it is not. The National Firearms Act violates the United States Constitution (which includes the Second Amendment) which is the Supreme Law of the Land: any “law” which violates the United States Constitution is null and void, as if it never even existed.

        Unfortunately, this does not change the fact that police, law enforcement agents, bureaucrats, prosecutors, and judges willfully support the National Firearms Act and therefore willfully violate the United States Constitution and their oaths of office.

        THIS is what our conversation should be about.

      • MDH…this is why we can’t have nice things.

        Too readily are we all made slaves. And in velvet chains we descend into tyranny…

        If the law of the land, such as was the case in China, stating that you could only have one child and you knocked up your wife and she got pregnant with number 2…well would you just sidle on up for an abortion? You do realize they forced abortions on many, many women, right?

        Welp, no big deal. Those people were violating the law of the land! They were evil criminals who were not “law abiding citizens”! Throw ’em in a hole and never let ’em see the light of day, right? Right?

      • “To get technical, with a bump stock one isn’t “pulling the trigger” each time. “

        To get technical the NFA doesn’t require that the trigger be “pulled” at all. It states that the gun shoots “…automatically more than one shot without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger“.

        That’s codified law. Therefore, since adding a bump stock doesn’t cause the rifle to fire more than one round “by a single function of the trigger” it’s not an MG and doesn’t fall under the NFA definition of an MG. A bump stock allows you to engage the function of the trigger more rapidly than most people can without assistance. How it does that is basically immaterial. The fact that the rifle never fires more than one round per actuation of the trigger is the key here.

        The ATF has no authority to regulate a bump stock under the NFA, which has been the ATF position from the jump.

  10. Now, all my previous comment still standing, would I trade bump fire stocks for national reciprocity and removal of suppressors from the NFA? Yep. If you really need to turn your AR15 into a “simulated” machine gun to fight tyranny or zombies, you don’t need a bump fire stock to do it.

      • Well, that’s quite the colorful way to put it. One can hold the position that all gun laws are unconstitutional, as I do. And yet, understand that the world is the way it is and you can’t always get what you want (I’m sure a really famous modern philosopher with big lips said that). However, when life gives you lemons I say grab the Vaseline and try your best to take advantage of the situation.

        • I agree with your point. No general ever won a battle by refusing to risk the life of a single soldier under his command. Winning each battle is a step toward ultimately winning a war.

          The battle to protect the 2A turns on building the support of a strong majority of the People. We need to move the number of voters who support the 2A from 40-something percent to 60-something percent. And, keep it there. How do we do that while confining our constituency to the 40-or-so low-population Red-to-Purple States? How do we do that over the long-haul?

          One answer would be to persuade voters in urban precincts to keep a gun in the home for self-defense. A much better answer would be to persuade those voters that it’s a “good thing” for them to both keep and bear arms; or, at least, that many of their neighbors do so. To get there, we need Blue-State voters to support Right-to-Carry; and, Shall-Issue is good-enough for this purpose.

          Suppose we got Congress to understand that a “bump-stock” ban would have to be considered with a National-Reciprocity bill and a HPA bill. One without the other would lead to defeat in 2018. That threat would stop the bump-stock ban bill in its tracks. If Congress voted for a bump-stock ban and also voted for National-Reciprocity we would lose one soldier and will the battle. Yes, the loss of that one soldier would resume the slippery-slope to loosing one more noble soldier after another. Meanwhile, we could be recruiting 2A supporters by the dozens in dangerous inner-cities. Who wins in such a scenario?

          This is really what we are debating here.

  11. Rapid fire does not mean accurate fire especially when you have people packed like Sardines at a Public event within a confined {fenced off area} meaning limited egress! Along with an overlook position, the cliche “shooting fish in a barrel” comes too mind.
    Multi-level failures contributed too this Action and lack off action by responding agency’s.
    So now we have the control freaks of the Democratic party who cannot nor will not even try too be serious about helping the people, {feathering their own nests and orchestrating a public shooting calamity} when their power of cradle too grave is slipping, who seek too destroy our Constitution with their lust for control and their Media minion lackeys backing their play and the NRA is not one of those minions, unfortunately for them there are still people alive who remember the sellout in the 60’s advocating gun control, (so they could enhance their political power by opposing it later} however in this case they are correct, The ATF did its job for once! and it is up too legislatures too change the rulings not Bureaucrats simply making a ruling, like IRS, BLM, Federal Baby Incinerators { Waco Texas} they killed more people along with 80 children than the shooter did in Las Vegas, and that was a political ploy manufactured by the Clinton Administration and the ATF. where was the cry for their weapons control.

    • Rapid fire does not mean accurate fire

      I take exception to that statement. Accuracy is best defined not by the weapon but by the target.

  12. Kudos, RF!
    This is the best sentence you’ve ever written:
    “Given all the ATF’s long and ignoble history of corruption, illegal enforcement activities… and deeply-held antipathy to Americans’ gun rights, it really irritates me that the NRA chose to criticize the Bureau for this correct decision.”
    IMO, OFC.
    Of all of the things ATF has done over the years, THIS is what they choose to pick on? Just how foolish IS ‘my’ NRA?
    Pretty damn foolish, in my estimation.

    • To the huddled (ignorant) masses there is no way to support bump fire stocks. Machine guns are currently illegal (mostly). This makes a semi a machine gun (mostly) and that’s all they hear or care about. Therefore bump fire stocks must be illegal and anyone who supports them is complicit with murderers. That is the reality of our national conversation on this topic and there is no win there. Again the progressives have successfully defined the conversation.

      • Only because the NRA started the conversation(Didn’t even wait for the antis to ask, or rather, demand…) by giving up ground for no reason. Nothing in return. Didn’t even ask for anything. Thus, I call them pretty damn foolish. NEVER give up something for nothing! Even a three-year old knows better than that.
        I simply cannot believe they’re that idiotic. They must be complicit.

  13. IF the NRA had balls, [pause for thoughtful reflection] this would have been the opportunity to actually have a conversation about why we have accepted an unconstitutional ban on machine guns for so long. Alas, the NRA buried their balls with Charlton Heston.

  14. NRA did not “cave.” They threw ATF under the bus to buy time. I am 100% sure that they knew that the ATF re-review would a) take months; and b) present no new findings and conclusions (except, now, how to deal with the potential for thousands of new unregistered machine guns if they rescinded their original finding). Months having passed and the original findings confirmed, NRA would be able to deal with Congress critters in a more rational mood during an election year.

    People who think that the NRA “caved” are playing checkers while NRA-ILA plays 3 dimensional chess.

    • The NRA caved and their balls shriveled up long ago. Though I agree with everything you said and they didn’t throw BAFTE under the bus, just maybe O. BAFTE came to the only conclusion they could within the wording of the law and no amount of public outcry will enable them to come to any different conclusion. Only Congress can change the wording of the law. And yet we have all caved as well because we accept all of these unconstitutional laws. Until we all stand with one voice and shout “Exactly what part of shall not be infringed don’t you fucking understand?” we too should be looking for our missing B-Bs.

      • Smart money always bets that a divided congress cannot pass anything, especially in an election year. Nobody has caved on anything because there are not even hearings on any bills yet, let alone a scheduled vote.

        Deregulation of machine guns was never a priority, let alone realistic even in the most optimistic scenarios. We are having a hard enough time deregulating suppressors and getting carry reciprocity.

        • Smart money would bet that since the NRA has essentially given their A raters a pass on this one that they will all do what is expedient and popular.

        • Nah, Ryan came out today and said the BATFE should revisit this issue. Congress could not even repeal and replace Obamacare, and they actually campaigned on that for 7 years. And Obamacare is deeply unpopular. Never bet on Congress doing anything.

  15. First order thinking rules the day. The NRA got the ATF to admit that bumpstocks not a machine gun make. That means Congress will have to act and I don’t think there are 61 votes in the Senate to give then that authority.

    • You obviously haven’t been paying much attention lately. I have no doubt the Republican establishment will cave on this. Ryan and McConnell have an opportunity here to get through National Reciprocity and the HPA while narrowly giving the anti’s a win on bump stocks, but unfortunately he is too inept.

  16. There’s a huge benefit to all this finger pointing and confusion – it derails any momentum for the anti-gunners to settle on a single, damaging piece of legislation that might actually have a chance of passing. The more they scurry around decrying various gun freedoms, bolstered by random comments from NRA or other pro-gunners, the less they will actually accomplish.

  17. A bumpfire stock did not increase the bodycount, and good freaking luck trying to prove otherwise.

    This is nothing but a convenient scapegoat and low hanging fruit for the banners.

  18. I detect the delicate aroma of organic fertilizer. If the ATF could declare a shoe string to be a machine gun in 2004 then the bump fire stocks would be even more so.

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