Why Bump Stocks Aren’t a Priority…Even in Montana

If you’re like most Montanans, you probably don’t know or care about whether or not you can legally purchase a bump stock. In fact, you may have never heard of these devices that replace the normal stock in a semi-automatic rifle to allow it to operate much like a fully-automatic machine gun.

Yet, for some mysterious reason, Montana’s Republican Attorney General, Austin Knudsen, has decided this is a priority and is leading the effort by 18 states to overturn the bump stock ban at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As noted in last week’s article: “The lawsuit seeks to overturn a Trump administration rule by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives finding that bump stocks turn semi-automatic rifles into illegal fully automatic machine guns, thus banning their sale. The rule came after the death of 58 people in a 2017 Las Vegas shooting in which a gunman fired bump stock-equipped rifles from a hotel window into a crowd gathered for a country music concert.”

Yep, you read that right — this was a determination by the Trump administration and Trump was all about “protecting” the Second Amendment right to bear arms, despite the fact that he has probably never even used a firearm. But when it comes to “the liberals are going to take your guns away” baloney, it was red meat to his fearful and rabid base.

One might ask why Knudsen thinks it’s so important for the Montanans who are paying his salary, benefits, and retirement, to overturn the ban on these devices that enable already lethal AR or AK semi-automatic rifles into fully-automatic weapons — especially after the U.S. Supreme Court already refused a similar challenge.

Montana is world-famous as a big game hunting destination. We have outstanding herds of elk, antelope, mule and whitetail deer that provide not only a robust economic sector for guided hunts, but mostly wind up in the freezers of our fellow Montanans to feed their families.

You won’t hear Montana hunters whining for bump stocks. In fact, as one alert observer put it: “Well, it will save money on buying meat grinders since you can just burgerize your elk and deer on the hoof with a bump stock.” Indeed, most hunters pride themselves on how few well-placed shots it takes to bring down their game, not how many — and for good reason since the less damage from bullets, the more good meat goes in the freezer.

It’s also worth considering just how much time, effort, and money Montana’s taxpayers will be paying to have Knudsen be the lead attorney in this case. Make no mistake, we will be paying not only for Knudsen’s time, but any and all costs for assistant attorneys, travel, accommodations, and significant materials necessary to support a case before the appellate court.

Again, these are Republicans attempting to overturn a ruling by a Republican administration and obviously, any concern they have with “fiscal responsibility” to the taxpayers is as phony as painting bump stocks as a vital concern for the citizens of the state and nation.

Was Knudsen’s office overrun with citizen requests for this action? Probably not. Montanans have far greater concerns right now as wildfires race across our plains and forests, streams go dry, crops fail, Covid surges, and another punishing heat dome settles over our state.

Our Attorney General has better things to do as well, and he should knock off the cheap political theater and get back to the work he’s hired to do — which is not providing Montanans with machine guns.

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.