Local representatives, state group criticize proposed bump stock ban

Brandon Paykamian • Jan 18, 2018 at 9:20 AM

Two state lawmakers representing Washington County said Wednesday they oppose proposed legislation to ban bump-fire stocks, the devices used by a Las Vegas gunman in October to kill 58 and wound 546 at a concert.

Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-6th, questioned the usefulness of the attachments, often called bump stocks, saying they reduce weapons’ accuracy, but he said he would oppose a proposed law to ban them, crank-fire devices and other devices meant to increase semi-automatic weapons’ rates of fire.

“I don’t think it’s useful, but I won’t support that legislation,” he said. “I consider it an infringement on our constitutional rights.”

A bump stock increases the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon by using the energy from the weapon’s recoil to bump the trigger repeatedly into the shooter’s stationary finger.

Memphis-area legislators Sen. Lee Harris, D-29th,  and Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-96th, filed bills in their chambers that would make it a Class E felony to use, possess or attempt to use or possess devices that accelerate the rate of fire of semi-automatic firearms.

Tweeting after filing the bill, Harris said "devices like bump stock devices that can lead to mass carnage and mass shootings have no justifiable reason for sale or possession."

The bills were assigned to the Senate Judiciary and House Civil Justice Subcommittee this month, but have not yet been scheduled for consideration.

Van Huss, who filed a bill last year that would have allowed state residents to openly carry handguns without first obtaining a carry permit, said banning bump stocks and other firearm attachments would violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

“I do believe the purpose of the Second Amendment is to defend ourselves from an oppressive government, which Americans have done twice in our history now,” the lawmaker said. “So no, I don’t believe the amendment only applies to hunting.”

The proposed bump stock ban received backlash from pro-gun group the Tennessee Firearms Association, whose director, John Harris, criticized the National Rifle Association for voicing its support for similar laws in a public statement made after October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. The NRA then called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to “review whether these devices comply with federal law.”

“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the NRA said.

John Harris urged conservative lawmakers in Tennessee to oppose the bill.

“We will not know whether the NRA's Tennessee lobbyist will support this bill or not — or, for that matter, whether the NRA lobbyist will perhaps endorse and financially reward the legislators who support this kind of legislation (as it has already done with others),” John Harris wrote in a recent press release from the group. “TFA anticipates that the conservatives in the Legislature who truly understand and support the rights protected by our constitutions will quickly put an end to this legislation.”

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-7th, likewise said the proposed legislation could violate Tennesseans’ rights. 

“Under our Constitution, all Americans — including Tennesseans — have a right to bear arms. As a Conservative, I have a responsibility to protect the Second Amendment rights of the hardworking men, women, and families of Washington County. Our actions as they relate to the state’s gun laws should not infringe on the rights of our law-abiding citizens,” he said in an emailed statement to the Johnson City Press. 

Lee Harris and Thompson did not immediately return requests for comment.

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