The History Of The Bump Stock: From Creation To Elimination
With 2018 coming to a close, a hot topic of debate has been the bump stock as the Trump Administration finalizes approval of new regulations that ban the firearm accessory. Nearly everyone in America has heard the term "bump stock" by now, but if you ask the average person, they could probably tell you little to nothing about what it is, how it works, and who created it. This article is going to be an in-depth exploration of the history of the device from its inception by creator Bill Akins to the relevant regulations surrounding the invention.
Before we go any further, I want to assure you of the accuracy of the information in this article. All relevant sources will be cited and I will be approaching this story from an educational standpoint. I'm not here to convince you of anything, I'm only here to share with you the history and facts surrounding the bump stock as well as the relevant regulations that made it legal, and the new regulations being enacted by the Department of Justice and the ATF with the approval of the Trump Administration that seeks to make it illegal.
Let's start off by going to the very beginning where this story began as one man's idea and his journey to make it into a reality.
What Is A Bump Stock?
First of all, before getting into the definition of a bump stock, let's take a moment to define exactly what it is using the correct terminology. The simple answer is that it is a firearms accessory with no inherent danger, it is simply an injection-molded accessory most commonly created out of polymer but more high-quality versions can be composed of synthetic/composite materials. While most, if not all, media outlets are referring to the firearm accessory as a "bump stock", the original iteration of the device was dubbed the "Akins Accelerator" by its creator.
"Bump fire" refers to the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm, (semi-automatic means it is only capable of firing one shot per pull of the trigger) to fire shots in rapid succession in order to simulate the rate of fire of a fully automatic firearm. A fully automatic firearm is just what it sounds like, it's a firearm capable of firing as many rounds as a magazine can hold by holding down the trigger. You can fire a fully automatic gun once with a single quick squeeze of the trigger, or you can hold it down and get continuous fire.
Why Not Just Buy A Fully Automatic Firearm?
The problem with fully automatic weapons is that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has restricted the use of automatic weapons to military and police with very few exceptions in most countries. In the United States, taxes and strict regulations have limited the manufacture and sale of fully automatic firearms under the National Firearms Act. The National Firearms Act was first enacted on June 26, 1934, shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. While the sale of fully automatic weapons has been severely restricted since the National Firearms Act of 1934, it is not impossible to buy one although it is very expensive and highly regulated.
Some examples of the exceptions which allow a U.S. citizen to own a fully automatic firearm include, the possessor isn't a "prohibited person," the fully automatic firearm was made before 1986, and the relevant state laws allow for it, which varies from state to state. The category of "prohibited person" includes anyone who is a felon, has been convicted of any crime punishable by more than a year in prison, is under indictment for any crime punishable by more than a year in prison, is a fugitive, is an illegal user of a controlled substance, has been adjudicated as a mental defective, has been committed to a mental institution, is an illegal alien, has a dishonorable discharge from the military, has renounced their U.S. citizenship, is the subject of a restraining order, or convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. This obviously limits the pool of potential legal fully automatic firearm owners significantly, then you add any relevant state laws on top of that and it becomes very difficult to legally possess one.
Let's say you are not a "prohibited person" and live in a state where fully automatic firearms are legal. What does it take to become the owner of a fully automatic weapon? A prospective owner must go through an application process administrated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). This application process requires a federal tax payment of $200 and a thorough criminal background check. This $200 tax payment buys a revenue stamp which is the legal document that allows for the possession of an automatic firearm. Needless to say, owning a fully automatic weapon is not easy or cheap and the pool of eligible applicants is very small. Hence the idea for an accessory to increase the firing speed of a semi-automatic firearm to more closely resemble that of a fully automatic firearm.
Who Invented The Bump Stock?
BillAkinsProduction | YouTube
The idea for the bump stock was developed by a 63-year-old Marine veteran and Elvis impersonator named Bill Akins. Akins first came up with the idea for the accessory while watching a World War Two documentary in 1996. The documentary showed twin anti-aircraft guns firing at Japanese warplanes from a U.S. Navy ship and he saw the barrels sliding back and forth from the concussive recoil each time they fired. The scene sparked Akins imagination and he began wondering if he could design a device that would mimic that action and turn a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that mimics the fire rate of a fully automatic weapon.
The Akins Accelerator - GunsAmerica
The first iteration of Akins new invention was dubbed the "Akins Accelerator" which he teamed up with a firearms industry businessman to produce. Akins secured two letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) confirming that the mechanism Akins proposed was legal. He then got to work and poured his life savings into making his idea into a reality. After several years of testing and several prototypes, Akins created a device that successfully turned a semi-automatic firearm into one that could mimic a fully automatic firearm. He did this by creating a rifle stock that contained a spring which utilized the recoil of a semi-automatic rifle to bounce the rifle forward and back into the bearer's trigger finger.
But in 2005, the ATF outlawed the "Akins Accelerator" citing that it transformed semi-automatic rifles into illegal machine guns. That is when a company called Slide Fire Solutions began designing their own version of the "Akins Accelerator" that was approved by the ATF, mostly because it lacked the recoil spring that Akins' design included. Akins transferred his patent to an outdoor sporting goods company called FosTecH Outdoors. A legal battle between FosTecH Outdoors and Slide Fire Solutions ensued as the two rival manufacturers fought over alleged patent infringement. They eventually settled the case in 2012.
ATF Letter Regarding Bump Stocks
Following the 2012 litigation, Akins became "legally prevented" from discussing certain aspects of the bump stock industry. What he did make clear is his disdain for the ATF. Akins told Reuters in an interview, "They just destroyed our business." That is when the owner of FosTecH began working with Akins to develop a legal version of the "Akins Accelerator". The company's website says it "strives to be your bump fire stock specialist" and they even got Akins to record some video demonstrations of their new product in action.
Open Letter From Bill Akins From December, 27, 2007
"My fellow Americans.
Let me draw your attention to a process known as bump firing which is exactly what my stock allows you to do except my stock stays stationary whereas in bump firing the entire firearm including the stock moves.
Bump firing uses no devices of any kind. It is a skill or knack as it were, that the shooter learns. Before I go into it, I would like to mention that if you read the illegal BATFE 2006-02 ruling that bans my accelerator device, that same ruling actually bans the process of bump firing and therefore any semi-automatic capable of bump firing. Read the 2006-02 ruling at the BATFE website, then come back here and look at what I am about to show you.
To bump fire, you hold the weapon very loosely with your right hand and put your finger against the trigger without actually pulling it yet. Then you pull forward with your left hand concentrating on keeping forward tension on your left hand. By doing so you pull forward on the weapon and push the trigger against the right hands trigger finger which fires the gun, which recoils allowing your finger to actually stay in contact with the trigger but allows the trigger to come back forward and reset, but remember, you are keeping forward pressure with your left hand on the fore end of the stock again pushing the trigger into your trigger finger. Actually, according to the BATFE ruling, the hellfire and tac trigger should be more illegal than my device since both those devices have your finger RIDING the trigger back and forth and never releasing from it, whereas my device causes your finger to completely disengage from the trigger for each shot. So why are two rapid-fire devices that clearly fall within the new BATFE ruling allowed but mine is banned? Politics.
This is the exact same thing my device does except the firearm does it within a stationary stock whereas in bump firing the whole firearm and stock assembly moves. However it is the same under Federal law as my device and SHOULD be the same under the illegal BATFE ruling as my device, i.e. banned equally as my device has been banned. But the BATFE selectively enforces their new illegal ruling. Why? Because if they equally enforced their bogus ruling against the technique of bump firing, they would have to ban all semi-automatic weapons, which is actually what their new 2006-02 ruling does. It bans my device, the hellfire device, the tac trigger and the process of bump firing with no device.
Yet the BATFE only enforces their ruling against my device. Here is a video of the Hellfire, gat trigger and tac trigger all in one video. Judge for yourself. Ignore the gat trigger since it is a crank fire device like a mini Gatling gun crank and not pertinent in this legal instance. Just look at the hellfire and the tac trigger. Both have been approved by BATFE as not being machine guns while mine does the same thing and is called a machine gun. The hellfire has been approved for something like 25 or 30 years.
Here is a link to another site - http://www.notpurfect.com/main/semifull.html - that explains about the tac trigger and hellfire devices which explains how they are simply aids that make bump firing easier, just like my device does. Scroll down till you see "Non-NFA devices" the hellfire looks kind of like a clothespin spring. It's the bigger pic with the red piece and spring. Tac trigger is shown installed in the trigger guard. These devices do the same thing mine does. No difference other than my stock is stationary.
But you see, they have been legal for decades and Sullivan couldn’t ban them without it being obvious BATFE was rewriting the law against something previously approved for decades that according to Federal law is legal just as my accelerator device is legal under federal law. I am the new guy with only two prior years of approval so they do not have as much egg on their faces by banning mine. Sullivan needed a political bone to throw to his democratic anti-gun grabbing friends such as Kerry, Kennedy and the Brady group who are all supporting his confirmation. Now, do you understand? This is political. Otherwise, why is the hellfire and tac trigger not banned when they operate the same way my device does according to the BATFE rulings words. The danger of this ruling is that although most people do not realize it, this ruling actually bans bump firing in any form and any semi-automatic firearm capable of bump firing. That is almost all semi-automatic firearms. Do you see where this could lead? I challenge you to research the hellfire and tac trigger and bump firing and read the BATFE 2006-02 ruling and you will see I am correct. The average person and even the shooting public largely has no clue of the danger and significance of this illegal ruling that could lead to banning all semi-automatic firearms.
Don’t take my word for it, look at everything I have provided you though and once you have freshly read the BATFE ruling, ask yourself how the hellfire and tac trigger and the no device process of bump firing is any different from my Akins Accelerator under both Federal law and the new illegal 2006-02 BATFE ruling. You will find that they aren’t.
I anticipate that some people will say to me that in the process of bump firing, the shooter is consciously pushing with his left hand against the fore end of the rifle’s stock and there is no spring involved (unlike my Akins Accelerator which uses a spring to bring the trigger back into contact with the finger to function once for each shot fired) and therefore the shooter’s body (left hand) is acting as the force to counteract the recoil and push the trigger back against the trigger finger to fire the firearm, and that this makes it somehow different from my device which uses a spring to push the trigger back into contact with the trigger finger for the trigger to function once for each and every shot fired. This argument’s premise would be that the shooter has to consciously push forward with his left hand against the fore end of the rifle stock to bring the trigger back into contact with his trigger finger on his right hand, and therefore that the shooter’s body is responsible for bump firing rapidly instead of a spring as in my accelerator rifle stock.
I have analyzed this and can refute that argument. For instance in a letter from Richard Vasquez of BATFE’s tech branch dated Oct 13, 2006, to a citizen answering what comprises "bump firing", Richard Vasquez said this... "As long as you must consciously pull the trigger for each shot of the "bump fire" operation, you are simply firing a semi-automatic weapon in a rapid manner and are not violating any Federal firearms laws or regulations."
As you can see BATFE now in contradiction of Federal firearms law equates "pull" of the trigger to be the same as "function" of the trigger. This is not correct since Federal law says "function" not "pull". Some firearms push or rotate the trigger so "pulling" a trigger is not the only way to "function" a trigger and Congress recognized this when they wrote the law. BATFE also arbitrarily made up a requirement here that you must "consciously" pull the trigger. Federal firearms law does not use the word "consciously" or state that a trigger must be "consciously" functioned. Again, this is something BATFE made up that is not in the Federal firearms law.
In that same letter from BATFE Richard Vasquez said...."Regarding the installation of various aftermarket parts; modifying fire-control components; installing Tac, Hellfire, or Hellstorm trigger; (Mr. Vasquez is supposed to be a firearms tech expert yet he calls these "triggers" when they are not "triggers" at all but add-on devices that attach to the trigger guard to put spring tension on the factory triggers) or attaching rubber bands to triggers to facilitate easier "bump fire" operations, you should be aware that any modifications which permit a weapon to fire automatically more than one shot by a single function (he got the word right this time, "function" not "pull" as he earlier stated) of the trigger could result in that weapon being defined as a machine gun."
So Richard Vasquez of the BATFE’s technical branch said in an Oct 13, 2006 letter that installing Tac, Hellfire or Hellstorm aftermarket trigger attachment devices could result in the host weapon being defined as a machine gun by the BATFE. If this is true, then why hasn’t BATFE contacted the manufacturers of Tac, Hellfire and Hellstorm trigger attachments to inform them to cease and desist manufacture and sales as BATFE did to my corporation when their illegal ruling banned the Akins Accelerator?
Now, keeping the above Oct 13, 2006, BATFE letter in mind along with the 2006-02 BATFE ruling in mind consider this...
Take your 22 caliber semi-auto outside. Now load and chamber it and point it vertically towards the ground and loosely support it so it doesn’t move around. Now place your finger against the trigger and let the gunfire due to gravity pulling the trigger against your finger. The recoil will bump fire the gun without you "consciously" pulling the gun forward as you would normally be doing with horizontal bump firing. Now the 22 is dancing up and down on your finger bump firing downward without any "conscious trigger pulling" or "conscious" pulling forward by your left hand on the forearm on your part whatsoever. Does this make your 22 a machine gun? The BATFE ruling’s wording says it does. You aren’t "consciously" pulling the trigger, are you? No, gravity is and you are guilty according to the BATFE ruling of having a weapon or device that once you first "consciously" "pull" the trigger (by releasing it and letting gravity and recoil take over) it initiates a sequence of automatic fire that continues until the finger is removed or the magazine is empty aren’t you? See how the BATFE ruling outlaws bump firing and your semi-auto 22 with this ruling even if they do not selectively enforce it? So much for the BATFE made up garbage about "consciously" "pulling" the trigger when neither "consciously" nor "pull" either one are words used in the Federal firearms law.
My above description of a 22 caliber rifle vertically bump firing show how the Oct 13, 2006 letter from Richard Vasquez of the BATFE tech branch, along with the illegal 2006-02 BATFE ruling (both of which violate and contradict Federal firearms law), amounts to the BATFE declaring that the Akins Accelerator, the Tac trigger attachment device, the Hellfire trigger attachment device, the Hellstorm trigger attachment device, bump firing in general and all semi-automatic weapons capable of bump firing to be machine guns. This may be a bit much for a non-technical person to understand all the mechanics of, but for those who do understand the mechanics and realize what the 2006-02 BATFE ruling says, along with what Richard Vasquez’s letter says, this is what the BATFE is doing. They are contradicting Federal firearms law and making up their own illegal agency regulations that have no standing under Federal law. The evidence is clear. Let me say this again.....
WHETHER THE GENERAL PUBLIC, THE FIREARMS COMMUNITY OR EVEN THE BATFE SO CALLED ’EXPERTS’ THEMSELVES REALIZE IT, THE LETTER FROM VASQUEZ ALONG WITH THE BATFE 2006-02 RULING, BANS ALL RAPID FIRE DEVICES THAT AID IN BUMP FIRING, BUMP FIRING ITSELF AS A NON DEVICE TECHNIQUE AND ALL SEMI-AUTOMATIC FIREARMS CAPABLE OF BUMP FIRING. This is what anti-gun, anti-second amendment, acting director Michael J. Sullivan has authorized.
Whether or not the BATFE will selectively enforce their illegal 2006-02 ruling against these devices and semi-automatic weapons, in general, is irrelevant. The BATFE has selectively enforced it against me and could enforce it against the other devices and all semi-automatic weapons whenever they want to according to their illegal 2006-02 ruling."
While much of the litigation remains shrouded in mystery, court documents showed that the ATF required all customers who purchased an "Akins Accelerator" to remove the spring, making the device inert, after the federal agency changed its mind about the legality of Akins invention. Ironically, you don't actually even need an "Akins Accelerator" or the latest iteration, the "bump fire stock" in order to mimic fully automatic fire with a semi-automatic firearm. In fact, Akins device was originally intended to improve upon a method of firing a semi-automatic rifle called "bump firing".
"Bump firing" is a method of firing a semi-automatic rifle where shooters fire from the hip while keeping a thumb hooked inside a belt loop to provide an anchor point, then used the gun's natural recoil to pull the trigger more quickly. Essentially, a skilled shooter could fire a semi-automatic rifle at a rate similar to a fully automatic rifle with some practice using the same mechanics behind the bump stock. When a rifle fires, the force of the bullet exploding out of the barrel creates an equal and opposite reaction. When you put a stabilizing barrier behind the rifle such as your shoulder, or the belt loop method, you can use the force created by the rifles recoil meeting resistance to push the rifle forward just enough to fire another round if you keep your trigger finger stiff.
The modern version of the "Akins Accelerator", otherwise known as the bump stock, was virtually unheard of by the average American until last year. On October 1, 2017, millionaire gambler and real estate mogul Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a crowd of hundreds at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unbeknownst to anyone, Paddock had managed to transport an arsenal of 23 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition into a hotel suite on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay hotel and resort. Along with Paddock's arsenal of weapons, he also rigged a complex surveillance system using hidden cameras outside his room to monitor activity in the hallway.
At 10:05 p.m., Paddock opened fire from the window of his suite on a crowd of unsuspecting concert-goers below who were attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival. At the time the shooting commenced, country music star Jason Aldean was performing on stage. Long bursts of gunfire which sounded like fireworks began raining down on the stage and sparks were flying everywhere. Aldean didn't realize what was happening for several moments but he quickly exited the stage as the "snaps" continued.
It took several moments for the audience to realize they were in great danger and people in the crowd began dropping from gunshot wounds. The crowd soon began to panic and began fleeing but there were so many people crammed in such a small fenced area that they were like fish in a barrel for Paddock's high-grade weapons. The carnage was unlike anything witnessed by America before and from 10:05 to 10:15 p.m. the festival grounds became a war zone. Some of the concert-goers immediately recognized the sound as gunfire while others argued that it was just fireworks.
Paddock fired over 1,100 rounds from his sniper perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay which overlooked the festival grounds. It took an hour for police to respond, pinpoint the source of the gunfire, and breach Paddock's hotel suite. The five Las Vegas police officers who were the first to reach his room attempted to make entry after a hotel security guard was shot in the leg through the door of Paddock's room and told the officers where the shooter was located. By the time the pol breached his room, Paddock had already shot himself in the head ending his own life before he could be apprehended.
The result of the mass shooting was 58 people had died, and another 851 were injured with over 400 of those by gunfire and the rest sustained injuries during the massive stampede of fleeing concert-goers. The shooting is the deadliest mass shooting by far committed by a single individual in the United States. Eventually, investigators revealed that Paddock had used a device called a bump stock on his semi-automatic rifles which he had legally purchased along with extended magazines allowing for long bursts of rapid gunfire. For all intents and purposes, to the victims and witnesses, they were being shot at by what seemed to be a machine gun.
The term "bump stock" soon permeated every news report and prompted several investigative reports about the device and how Paddock used it to kill over 50 people. The morning after the shooting, lines to donate blood to the victims of the shooting stretched for blocks. In Las Vegas alone, 800 units of blood were donated to the local blood bank following the shooting, it was later reported that 15% of that blood went unused. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval denounced the actions of Paddock calling the shooting "a tragic and heinous act of violence that has shaken the Nevada family."
Recently elected U.S. President Donald Trump also condemned the shooting and described Paddock as "a very very sick individual" and "a demented man with a lot of problems". He also praised the response of the police officers saying, "the police department has done such an incredible job, and we'll be talking about gun laws as time goes by." Well, it has been over a year since the shooting and the Trump Administration has signed off this week on a bump stock ban being pushed for by the ATF, and several gun control advocates and organizations.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the U.S. Congress called for assault weapons legislation that would ban bump stocks and the National Rifle Association (NRA) came out in favor of bump fire stock regulations. Both Democrats and some Republicans in Congress expressed support for the prohibition of bump stocks. Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill to the Senate that gained 39 Democratic sponsors and two bipartisan bills were also introduced in the House of Representatives. Until last month, no official action had been taken by the federal government with House leaders referring the issue to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
On November 6, Massachusetts became the first state to ban the sale or possession of bump stocks while consumer interest in the originally legal devices peaked. Gun manufacturer's stocks rose and gun shops selling bump stocks became the targets of harassment campaigns simply for carrying and selling the legal devices.
The Federal Ban Of The Bump Stock
On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, news broke that the Trump Administration has approved new regulations proposed by the ATF that makes bump stocks Federally illegal. The same day, acting United States Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed a regulation banning bump stocks in the U.S. The ban is expected to take effect 90 days from the time it gets published in the Federal Register which could happen as soon as Friday. By March 2019, anyone in possession of a bump stock will be required to surrender or destroy them. Anyone who does not turn in or destroy them or is found in possession of a bump stock can be charged with a felony.
The move by the Trump Administration to approve the regulation has sparked controversy among 2nd Amendment proponents, gun rights activists, and gun owners. Law-abiding citizens argue that they purchased the devices legally with their hard-earned money which was taxed. They argue that they then also paid more tax when they purchased the bump stock and now the federal government is set to brand anyone who does not turn them in or destroy them as outlaws. Opponents of the ban say that it is not fair that the government got their taxes from the sales of the devices and now they are demanding that customers destroy them without any compensation or refund.