Last week, Senator Feinstein introduced S.1916, a bill in response to the Las Vegas attack, the text of which only recently became available through Congress.gov. Here’s the meat of the proposal:
Except as provided in paragraph (2), on and after the date that is 180 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, it shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a trigger crank, a bump-fire device, or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun.
The key phrase here is “functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle”. Wording of phrases is key.
And here’s the problem with Feinstein’s wording: no minimum floor is specified on how much the rifle’s rate of fire is to be accelerated, or a minimum threshold the new fire rate is to reach for it to be a violation of this law. Which means any modification that allows for a demonstrable increase in the rate of fire could qualify.
Want to swap out the trigger group on a prefab AR-15 for a faster trigger? Well, better not if this bill is enacted into law. Same if you build your AR-15, then later decide to upgrade the trigger.
The bill amends 18 USC § 922(a)(6) to define the above-quoted prohibition. And adds a reference to the proposed section to 18 USC § 924(a)(2) to define the penalty: up to 10 years in prison and fines as authorized by law.
Feinstein or the Senate via amendment could easily alleviate this concern by placing outside its scope any modification that still requires human power to actuate.
Paragraph 2 exempts the Federal, State, and local governments. Which raises the question: if “no one needs” bump stocks, which anti-gun advocates were espousing in the wake of Las Vegas, why does the “no one” seem to never include the government and military?
Update: I’m not the only one realizing that Feinstein’s bill intentionally extends beyond her desire to ban bump stocks.