Thomas Morton
26 min readAug 26, 2020

I remember feeling slightly mystified that nobody wanted to run this rambling runaway diatribe on the gun debate right after the Mandalay Bay shooting. Less so upon rereading it.

First of all, I’m overwhelmed by the urge to put debate in finger quotes. In most debates, the opposing sides talk to each other. Actually, good god does that read willfully naive, or at least out of date. But you get what I’m saying, right? What we generally refer to as “debates” these days should more accurately be termed “simultaneous screaming fits by two groups of people who earnestly hate one another.” The debate over gun control has fit this bill since I was old enough to read the local paper over breakfast.

I grew up in a gunless house, raised by middle-of-the-road Democratic-voting parents, which, in our suburb in Cobb County, Georgia, made them the neighborhood liberals. Throughout Atlanta’s reign as murder capital of the nation in the early 90s and on through the evolution of workplace shootings into school shootings, the family consensus was “maybe it shouldn’t be so fucking easy to buy guns.” Nothing more specific than that — no ban-them-all business or calling gun owners idiots — just maybe it’d be a good idea to regulate these deadly weapons with a smidge of the authority that goes into regulating, say, driving a car.

My first Thanksgiving home after my younger sister left for college, my dad greeted me in the driveway with the unexpected and uncharacteristically giddy question, “Do you want to see my new guns?” I did, obviously, but I was also curious what had gotten him into guns all of a sudden. “Oh, I used to always keep a handgun or two in the house. I just got rid of them when you were born.”

This seemed like a weird thing not to have mentioned for 20 years — especially since he was apparently champing at the bit to get a new pistol the second the household was child-free — but my dad was a weird guy, despite his blandly paternal appearance. He showed me his new purchases, a classic 38-special cop revolver and some off-brand small-caliber Brazilian number. I took turns dry-firing each at the television while I asked about his apparently longtime hobby and my apparently mistaken impression of him as a moderate believer in gun control.

“No, I absolutely think there should be stronger gun control. All I had to do was flash my license to get these — for all they know I could have been a mental patient or a nutcase like your grandma.” Not gonna get into my grandma right now, but fair point I thought. Then we went to the shooting range where it turned out he’d been coming more or less on the sly and renting a gun every so often for years. As said, weird guy.

I wish this anecdote encapsulated some principle or pertinent little lesson to the issue at hand, but really all it’s doing is trying to establish enough personal bona fides to convince the kind of people who in all likelihood disagree with me to keep reading. What a losing proposition.

Same deal with the unpublished article below. I thought I could somehow write a piece that both camps of the gun debate would read and take to heart. How’s that for some hubris? I even spell out my plan’s fatal flaw in the very first paragraph: Gun haters aren’t going to read a long, in-the-weeds piece about gun terminology and gun lovers are only going to read it to find whatever mistakes they can use to invalidate the overall point.

The middle ground between these two sides is some unhappy real estate to occupy. I very genuinely get the appeal of guns. As I’m not alone in saying, there’s no better advertisement for firearms than firing one. The anticipatory dread of the sound and bite of that first pop as it transmutes into unbelievable power blasting from your grip at command is a greater and more reliable rush than any drug.

I’ve also been shot at and it is the single worst feeling of terror I have ever experienced. It fucked me up solidly for a good week afterward, and still comes back to haunt me occasionally when I’m not expecting a firework to go off or someone screams in a crowd.

I often wonder about those dickheads who walk around town with their rifle out, if they’ve ever been in legitimate fear of having a bullet drilled through their neck or into their lungs. Or if they’ve ever truly imagined what it would be like to witness another person’s blood and organs ejected from their body and know that they caused it. In general, I doubt it. I know video games were somehow exonerated from inspiring real-life violence back around Columbine (I’d love to revisit the methodology of that landmark study — hey, only a small fraction of people who play Quake every night end up using it to rehearse their spree killing, what’s a couple teenage massacres a year?) but I can’t so much as glance at these losers without hearing the word “GAMER” lead a marching band through my head.

What’s strange to me is that of all the open-carry enthusiasts I’ve met — concealed-carry too for that matter — for all their talk of being “prepared” and having “control” in the event of an adverse situation, their lives are clearly dominated by fear. Even with the pacifying weight of the rifle on their shoulder or the bulge in the small of their back they still walk around fully on edge 24–7. Have you ever been afraid you were about to get jumped? It’s stressful, isn’t it? Picture living with that stress every day from the minute you wake up, that’s your baseline. Yuck.

The problem is they relish this fear, it gives them purpose, buddies, a delicious sense of knowing better than all the oblivious morons around them, a quick identity. When I wondered a couple minutes ago if any of them had imagined actually shooting a person, I qualified it with “truly” not just because I love a hacky adverb, but because I absolutely presume they’ve each imagined some heroic fantasy version of it. You don’t make carrying a gun around part of your identity without wanting to use it some day. Sorry, wanting to “need” to use it.

I don’t know what they did in driver’s ed wherever you grew up, but in my class before you could get your learner’s permit you had to look through a stack of glossy police photos of car accidents. The ones I went through graduated in intensity as you flipped through them, from the initial survey of the scene with the body barely visible in the distance to extreme close-ups of a man’s macerated limbs or just the bottom half of his head. One wasn’t even technically a car wreck, it was a kid who jumped from an overpass onto an empty highway supposedly because he was on acid. I remember what that kid’s brains look like smeared across asphalt with one of the optic nerves still attached to the eye. Not trying to pass you my nightmares or anything, just saying if we can use that level of psychological horror to impress upon children the potential consequences of misusing a car, why not the direct consequences of correctly using a gun?

Anyways, here’s this:

From a police training exercise in Oakland, CA 2014. The man who devised this scenario bragged that he’d “never seen a single horror movie,” to which the colleague I was with replied, “Your brain IS a horror movie.”

Originally written October 2017.

Having owned guns, it’s weird watching this umptillionth iteration of the gun debate play out. In no other arena will you see a group so ignorant about the issue at hand go at it with a group so transparently dishonest about their intentions. The entire pro-gun argument is built on the premise that the anti-gun camp knows nothing about guns outside what they’ve gleaned from movies. Instead of trying to fill in this knowledge gap, however, they exploit it in the most disingenuous way imaginable, even to their own side. The anti-gun side, for their part, don’t bother to bone up on guns or gun culture because they think it’s “creepy.” Which is where lame meets shame, because if they did they’d realize that practically every point they’ve ever argued against is bullshit. It’s like watching a blindfolded kid swing his bat wildly at empty air while the piñata is smoking a cigar on the riverbank with a fishing line tied to its big toe.

Gun-love, like any other hobby, is besotted in jargon. Gun names & types, ammo names & types, parts & accessories, loading techniques, shooting styles, stereotypical owners, stereotypical gun-control activists, an entire Alphabits box of acronyms and abbreviations. It’s as bad as the army’s jargon, WHICH, to talk shop in the gun world you pretty much oughta know too. The role this plays in the debate is gargantuan. Not only does it allow gun enthusiasts to talk openly over the heads of their opponents like the one kid in class who couldn’t grasp pig latin, there are a million shibboleths to prove whether or not you’re a fellow traveler.

Far and away the easiest terminology for a gun-dummy to expose themselves by screwing up is automatic vs. semiautomatic. I know this breakdown is the third damn paragraph in every damn article written about the gun debate since 1988, but it is still a sticking point, so here’s my swing at it: Automatic guns start firing when you pull the trigger and don’t stop until you release it, whereas semiautomatics fire once when you pull the trigger, then you’ve got to pull it again. Pretty basic, right?

Gun owners think so and get super flustered that other people continuously fail to grasp this simple distinction. But what I think is throwing a wrench in the works is non-gun-people’s tacit awareness of a type of guns called “select fire,” which have a switch you can flip to choose (or select) between automatic and semiautomatic mode. Some select-fires also have a third setting called “three-round burst” that makes the gun fire three bullets for every one time you pull the trigger, and here is where I believe the confusion lies. It is my 100% personal theory based solely on me that when people use semiautomatic incorrectly, 9 times out of 10 they are mistaking it for three-round burst. Because it kinda seems like you’re firing automatically, but only in a semi way. Make sense?

Compounding their confusion, a lot of gun-do-not-owners also don’t know the name for a completely non-automatic gun where you have to cock it or sling back the bolt each time before you can pull the trigger. These are single-action firearms. There’s also double-action, double-action/single-action, lever-action, bolt-action, pump-action, block-action, break-action, single-shot, breach loaders, and muzzle-loaders. God forbid you mix any of these up in your argument; it’s basically the chute or snake that takes you all the way back to Start, depending on which & Ladders variant you grew up playing. We probably could have put this whole mess to bed decades ago if we just called them machine guns, trigger-fires, cock-jobs, and load’emups, but gun people like their jargon good n’ technical, so technical’s where we’re stuck.

It’s important to clarify that the object of a formal debate isn’t to change your opponent’s beliefs and convert them to your own. It’s to beat them and convert the audience. This is where the pro-gun camp knows exactly what it’s doing, or at least acts like they do. None of its arguments derives from its beliefs — for instance when they say “Why don’t we outlaw cars since they kill people too?” they very clearly don’t think a) we should consider banning cars or b) that there’s an actual equivalence between automobiles and firearms in terms of the way they cause deaths. It’s a routine ad absurdum to tie up their opponents in their own point. The whole strategy is to keep the debate as far from their actual convictions as they can. Because those boil down to “I want to have guns.”

Do they believe their personal ownership of an AR15 decreases gun violence in their region? Not if they’re sane they don’t. And yet mass ownership somehow does. Why? Because if you plot it on the x-axis of a graph and gun deaths by region on the y-axis you can read the scattergram to suggest that. This leans on the assumption that every or any incident of gun violence can be fully accounted for by a single factor. And yet you forever see this graph pasted smugly alongside some comment about “empirical data” or being “statistically literate” because it inverts one of their opponents’ most salient arguments.

Gun violence involves far too complicated a matrix of contributing circumstances to address all of them through legislation — but the single universal factor in every shooting is someone involved had a gun. Seeing as that isn’t a great point to try and argue against, the pro-gunners isolate ownership from all the other reasons that someone gets shot and neatly flip the sentence. So the factual “shootings are caused by gun ownership (amid other factors)” becomes the dubious “gun ownership causes shootings,” which their graph then roundly explodes. In logic this is called an invalid conversion; on twitter, a #notallguns argument. And it is just the tip of the deceiptburg.


The history of gun law in the United States and its surrounding discussion is interesting if you have a night to burn on wikipedia and nowhere to be in the morning. Shaving this hundred-year dumbshow down to the last 30, the gun debate’s current focus is on semi-automatic centerfire rifles & machine-pistols, or, as I’m not supposed to call them, “assault weapons.”

The starting point for this most recent war of word-games is, as ever, the 2nd Amendment, which enshrines the right to keep and bear arms. “It doesn’t say ‘specific arms’,” the most ambitious 2A defenders will astutely lob out. Fair enough, but it also doesn’t say “any” or “all” arms. Thankfully for those of us who don’t want a poorly-cast fishing grenade to land in our boat, the Senate helped clarify this in the preamble of a 1984 law protecting the rights of gun owners. “What is protected is the individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.”

Ronald Reagan, that legendary gun-grabbing communist, further clarified peaceful manners by saying that only guns with a “sporting function or defensive purpose” were constitutionally bearable arms. Given that a firearm’s four potential uses, outside a firing range or an Iraqi new year’s party, are sports, protecting yourself, fighting in war, and murder, it follows that guns that aren’t made for the first two are only good for one of the last two. That eliminates things like umbrella pistols as well as all fully automatic guns from the 2nd Amendment’s good graces.

Here’s where the type of people who usually rail on “SJW”s start themselves turning into a bunch of Semantic Jackoff Whiners: “Well who’s to say I can’t ‘sport’ or defend myself with an automatic rifle?” they type, only frantic and misspelled. The guns do, dingus, by their design. “Sporting” as the ATF defines it includes hunting and competitive target shooting. To hit an animal with a spray of bullets, ruining both its meat and pelt, isn’t hunting it; it’s destroying it. Ditto a target.

Automatic gunfire is employed to suppress an enemy’s movement on the battlefield because that’s all you can really do with it without being able to precisely aim: keep an area full of flying bullets. This is also why it’s completely inappropriate to defend yourself with. Provided you can unshoulder and charge your M16 derivative in time to draw a bead on your assailant (hope they’re across the street!), you are going to hit not just him, but everything around and directly behind his body. Or her, sorry.

So, because their sole use is for waging war, which is incredibly difficult to do in a peaceful manner, machine guns fall outside the protection of the 2nd Amendment, although the ATF does extend folks the privilege of owning them so long as you have a federal firearms license, the gun(s) was(ere) made before 1986, and you pay a $200 flat tax. And a lot of people do! I’ve met them! What’s funny is when I spent a three-day weekend with these licensed automatic-weapon owners, expecting most to be your basic gunshow Dale Gribbles, THEY wound up making fun of gun nuts more than I would have dared or ever dreamed of. “Oh no, Obummer’s gonna send his homeboys Franklin & Tyrone to tek mah guns!” This is an exact quote I wrote down.

Wildly outdated racial stereotypes notwithstanding, the ATF licensees I talked to were practically progressives when it came to gun control. After all, it had already happened to them. They know the government isn’t going to come confiscate their guns, concentrate them in FEMA camps, and give their names to the invading communists — and mind you, these men included one who owned Patrick Swayze’s actual mini-AK from Red Dawn — because they know the government. They deal with them every time they buy or sell a machine gun. “Who’s gonna come after us, the ATF? We’re their freakin’ customers.”

If you dick around on message boards for regular 2nd-amendment-style gun enthusiasts, by the way, many of them HATE machine-gun owners. They call them millionaire hobbyists who sold out their rights. It’s such a naked inferiority complex it ought to be age-gated. Here are men openly acknowledging that collecting army guns is just a pastime, while the activists are trying to convince the rest of the world that their semiautomatic knockoffs of the same guns are vital tools they NEED.

Even juicier than the Obummer riff was when I asked the same guy if he had any semi-auto versions of the machine guns he owns and he pffft’d “No, I own real rifles.”

This sentence, which to the uninitiated isn’t even interesting in how little sense it makes, is the fightingest of fighting words in the gun world. It’s the equivalent of a Virginia farmer in 1860 putting up a sign on his plantation that reads “Owning slaves is for pussies.” There are two terms in the firearms vernacular used to refer to gun owners of this sentiment: Fudd and Zumbo.

A Fudd, taken from adenoidal wabbit hunter Elmer Fudd of cartoon fame, is a sportsman who sees any gun or accessory without a direct application to hunting as unnecessary. In keeping with its namesake, Fudds are commonly portrayed as myopic dimwits whose position on the issue of gun rights comes from a place of ignorance. The archetypal Fudd doesn’t “understand” why you would need a detachable magazine for ammo since that doesn’t help you kill deer.

Given that my utterer in question pays the federal government to possess a trailer’s worth of submachine guns, he is plainly not a Fudd but a Zumbo. Zumbos are named for Jim Zumbo, former hunting editor of Outdoor Life and current name-brand pariah, who did “assault weapon” one further by calling them “terrorist rifles” and saying the hunting world should “divorce” itself from these “tackdrivers” and “the group of people who terrorize the world with them.” The Zumbo’s stance isn’t the result of ignorance, but extreme familiarity; he understands exactly why you’d want a detachable magazine and thinks it’s terrifying. While both Fudds and Zumbos are internal threats to the gun camp’s party line, Fudds can at least potentially be tamed or reeducated.

What the Zumbo I was talking to meant by “real rifles” is the core reactor at the center of the current gun debate. When you or I hear the word “rifle” on its own, what our brains naturally conjure up is a long brown gun with a wooden buttstock underneath which is the trigger — your standard, dictionary-illustration hunting rifle. If you add a banana clip to this mental gun, put a little handle behind the trigger, and picture it firing 10 rounds per second — mazel tov! you are now imagining an AK-47!

This is isn’t too far off from how the infantry weapons carried by most armies of the world evolved, and since, despite having a completely different firing mechanism and overall function, they were still “rifles” (which doesn’t even refer to the gun’s shape, but technically to the grooving inside its barrel), the gun world coined the terms “assault rifle” and “battle rifle” to keep them straight from their non-automatic antecedents.

Easy enough, but what happens when you take an assault rifle and make its firing mechanism semi-automatic? By definition, it reverts back to just a rifle. There’s an obvious difference between a traditional hunting rifle and a civilianized M4, but trying to define it with any sense of objectivity is a nightmare. Imagine trying to explain the difference between hair metal and punk rock to someone who’s never heard either and hates both. That’s the debate on “assault weapons.”

Assault weapon is the king mother god-emperor of all anti-gun shibboleths. If god forbid you mix up semi- and full-automatic, then Christ fucking help you if you say “assault weapon” without an extended magazine of asterisks. Discussion over. “I’m sorry, what is this ‘assault weapon’ of which you speak?” the gun camp will say with all the feigned bewilderment of Bill Clinton asking the grand jury to define the word “is.” The a-word, they’ll quickly and stridently have you know, is not an established class of firearms, but rather a derogatory epithet devised to paint perfectly legal semi-automatic rifles as “evil black guns,” or EBGs if you have to type it more than once.

This hateful anti-gunitic slur originated in the late 80s when legislators wanted a way to ban the AR-15s and AK clones beloved by spree shooters along with the Mac10s and Tek9s of the drug trade, as popularized on Miami Vice. Instead of drawing up two separate bills targeting assault-rifle-style guns and machine-pistols, they dropped the -rifle and made “assault weapons” their umbrella nom de guerre. Why they chose weapon over the slightly less arguable “assault gun” is anyone’s guess. Oh wait, I just googled it — assault guns were already a type of TANK. Jesus H. Christ with the jargon.

It wasn’t just the name that cheesed off gun-defenders, though. (But it was mostly the name.) In order to ban these newly-christened assault weapons, Congress had to define what an assault weapon is. The ATF classifies guns by their firing mechanism, but since that would include regular ol’ brown hunting rifles and semi-automatic handguns in their ban, lawmakers opted for a novel mix’n’match/bingo approach to taxonomy. They drew up a list of features and if your firearm had a detachable magazine and two or more items from the list… it might be an assault weapon. These parts included pistol grips, bayonet mounts, barrels threaded so you can screw things like silencers onto it, grenade launchers, folding or removable stocks, and barrel shrouds. Assault weapon skeptics naturally find the whole list laughable, but the two items they get a particularly incredulous chortle out of are pistol grips and barrel shrouds, incidentally the two features on pretty much every semi-auto variant of an assault rifle.

“Those are just aesthetic design choices!” goes the exasperated howl. And they’re right. Both pistol grips and barrel shrouds are design elements, integral to the overall function and ergonomically crafted to support the gun’s primary purpose: combat. The pistol grip gives you better control when shooting outside the rifle’s three standard firing positions — it’s easier to take hipshots with it, to shoot with one hand, to point the gun around a corner or over a wall — none of which will do you a lick of good hunting. The barrel shroud is there so you don’t burn your hand when the barrel heats up, which it will only do if you’re firing continuously for a large number of rounds, which you won’t be doing while hunting, unless they clone the passenger pigeon, I guess.

The aesthetic argument is interesting, though. From the pro-gun side it goes “They’re just trying to outlaw these rifles because they look like scary machine guns.” Which is exactly why they’re made and bought.

Mass shootings are about two things: Killing as many people as possible and looking tuff. There’s a reason practically every active shooter since Klebold has worn black, and it isn’t to blend in with a white concrete wall in the middle of a schoolday. Black is “tactical.” This made literal sense when SWAT teams started dressing this way in the 60s and 70s, since it was one of their tactics to kill the lights before raiding a building and black goes well with lights out. Carrying an assault rifle with a pistol grip went with their tactic of poking their guns around corners and through doorways. Everything they wore or carried derived from some tactic and so it all thenceforth became known as “tactical” gear. Then, just like punk, the signifier detached from its meaning and tactical gear became stuff that looks like what a SWAT team would use, typically with lots of pockets.

Even ardent gun lovers make fun of “tacticool” weapons and accessories and the “mall ninjas” and “Tommy Tacticals” that buy them. Outside a slim minority of second-amendment fundamentalists who believe that a civilian’s carrying capacity should match a cop or soldier’s for the purpose of armed insurrection (and they generally keep to their own message boards), most gun owners see assault-rifle derivatives as just another aspect of this fashion trend.

The whole Zumbo schism is principally over whether or not these nerds are worth fighting for. To the Zumbo they represent a liability and the sooner “real” rifle owners disavow them and create a workable definition separating tacticool firearms and their own, the lesser the chance that “assault weapon” will be expanded to include all semi-automatics.

The anti-Zumbos consider this collaborating with the enemy, and knowing that under the current guidelines the only thing distinguishing “assault weapon” rifles from all semi-automatic rifles is external design, ceding any style of rifle to a ban is a slippery slope at the bottom of which is no semi-automatic anythings. So they shrug off the differences between assault and regular rifles as “cosmetic,” as if contractors are just dolling up their armaments for the militaries of the world to pick based on how “assault” they look.

This is a type of rhetorical gambit the gun camp makes with surprising frequency. The classic version is “well technically all weapons are assault weapons,” an indignant tautology that’s supposed to make their opponent sheepishly throw in the towel instead of pressing the point that, yes, every gun’s functional purpose is assault, even when being used in defense against an assaulter. With “cosmetic” differences, they’re banking on the word’s feminine connotations to make it seem unworthy of Congress’s time and attention, because the obvious counter-argument is if all these components are cosmetic features then why not just take them off the rifles? Oh but they have, and that’s just made the debate even murkier.

Chief among the assault weapon criteria is having a detachable magazine. Accepting the definition of this as an ammo cartridge that can be removed and replaced without the use of an external tool, the gun industry devised the bullet button, a release mechanism that can only be pushed with the tip of a bullet or something that-shaped, just like the little reset hole on your phone or laptop where you have to slide a paperclip in. Since having a bullet button generally kept a rifle from being designated an assault weapon, and also because states like California made them mandatory, manufacturers started including them on popular models.

However, because they made it take longer to reload, which was their point, some wiseass company concocted a little magnetic doodad that fits over the bullet button and let’s you operate it with your finger. You see because being held in place by magnetic attraction means it’s still technically “external” to the gun. Yes, very clever. This loophole is as rationally sound as telling your younger brother that you’re not touching him, the glove is, and yet, thanks to the efforts of strict “letter-of-the-law” lawyers, judges, and ATF bureaucrats, it stands.

Bypassing the express intention of the detachable magazine ban, to slow the amount of time it takes to reload, for its general intention, to inhibit a murderer’s ability to kill people more quickly, the defenders of these loophole magnets ask “Where’s the empirical evidence that magnet breaks make it easier to kill people?” The evidence they’re referring to, just so we’re one million percent clear, is real human lives that have ended as a direct result of this gizmo. “Innocent until proven guilty” is such a catchy credo, it’s gone from a legal principle underpinning due process to a general rule of thumb applicable to anything from inanimate objects to concepts like texting while driving. Horrifyingly, this is how the ATF seems to operate, as if they, like the supreme court, need a real-life case before they can make a ruling.

For a second, it seemed like they had one, as the San Bernadino shooter was observed dropping a magazine and loading a new one without futzing around with a loose bullet against the gun’s body. This was it for the magnetic dealies, websites proclaimed while urging their readers to stock up on the soon-to-be-outlawed accessory. But then it turned out whatshisname hadn’t used a magnet; he’d simply broken the bullet button on his rifle. The outpourings of relief and righteous vindication in the wake of this revelation are among the most ghoulish things I’ve seen on the internet. Nine people’s agonizing deaths had failed to challenge their convenience. And while the celebrations and get’emquick shopping frenzy were basically one big admission of this product’s guilt, I was too turned off by the inhumanity to catch on to the larger implication until Las Vegas.

Prior to the Mandalay Bay shooting, the bump-stock’s main defenses were that, legally, it only simulates automatic fire; practically, it reduces aim; and ethically, you can already bump-fire a gun without using the device. Don’t try to fit those three arguments into a single coherent belief, because they don’t. The legal argument implies that automatic weapons are illegal because of their trigger mechanism, not the rate of fire it allows; the practical argument tacitly acknowledges the fact that bump-stocks can be used in mass shootings, but that their drawbacks should mitigate the number killed; and the ethical argument ironically implicates the gun itself. Now that direct, empirical evidence has accrued (read: individual people have had bullets punched into their skin at high velocity, either killing them or otherwise destroying their remaining life), the NRA et al have thrown their support behind a ban, while quickly buying up as many as possible before it takes effect. If this doesn’t arouse your suspicion please remind me of any other time in the last half century the NRfuckingA has had a change of heart. What they undoubtedly realized is what I did: If bump-stocks are legal, then any gun they work on is not.

For the trillionth time, the ATF defines machine guns, or title 2 firearms, by the way their triggers work. If pulling it once causes more than one round to be fired, it’s automatic. The bump-stock works by providing the gun a space to recoil and bounce back forward into your finger, which forces back the trigger and so on until you remove your finger or run out of ammo. Incidentally, most automatic firearms work on the same principle — the gun’s recoil chambers and fires the next bullet. What the bump-stock is banking on is that your finger is brought in and out of contact with the trigger each time it fires. This, they claim, meets the strict technical definition of firing once “per trigger function.”

The ATF has already outlawed kits and add-on accessories that accomplish the same feat of using the semi-automatic’s recoil to pull the trigger again and again and again and again; they themselves are considered machine guns. In fact, if you were to affix a pencil across the fingerrest of a bump-stock so that it was pushing the trigger instead of your finger, that would technically make it a machine gun. The pencil I mean. Google “hellfire trigger” for an outlawed example of this kind of workaround. Slidefire, the company that makes the bump-stocks used in Vegas, banked their entire operation on the fact that your finger is not a pencil, and that nobody would worry too hard about what exactly a trigger is.

In order to function a trigger requires the application of external force — a trigger has to be pulled to work, otherwise…. well, there is no otherwise, that’s how a trigger operates. A gun can’t just fire on its own. Even remote-controlled triggers like on those webcam hunting setups involve something outside the gun applying force to its trigger. And the bump-stock does not enable your finger to pull 10 times faster than it normally can. After the first pull, you’re supposed to keep your finger stiff in place for the trigger to press into. You are no longer pulling the trigger; the trigger is being pulled into you. This relocates the force from external to internal. Your initial pull is a single function of the trigger, all successive shots are fired by the motion of the gun itself.

This isn’t just my deductive brilliance on display in a House-like dervish of reasoning. I am more or less paraphrasing the ATF’s own ruling on the Akins Accelerator, the bump-stock’s immediate predecessor, which used a spring to absorb the recoil and bring the trigger back into contact with its finger. The Accelerator was designated title-2 in 2006 and taken off the market. Realizing the natural bouncing action of the gun against the stock worked effectively on its own, SlideFire took the Accelerator’s basic design and simply removed the spring. This, they argued, showed that it wasn’t their device that allowed the gun to be fired in automatic fashion, but the gun itself. After all, they added, you can bump-fire a gun without their stock, it just makes it easier to aim.

The full definition of a title-2 firearm isn’t just one that fires automatically, but any firearm that can be “readily restored” to do so. Meaning that if your semi-auto rifle or handgun can be transformed into full-auto with the use of anything in the average toolbox, then it is and always has been a machine gun. The gun set scoff at the ATF for referring to conversion kits and accessories that allow automatic fire as machine guns themselves, but that convention was adopted for their benefit. Because if the thing that converts your gun to automatic fire isn’t the machine gun, then gun it works on is. By Slidefire’s own testimony, their stock isn’t even necessary to restore the average semi-automatic rifle to full auto — all you need is a firm grip and some practice. So unless the ATF is willing to classify human hands as a title-2 automatic weapon, the loophole they’ve been playing in just opened wide enough to swallow an entire class of guns.

This is the fate the Zumbos of their community have been warning them of. What was initially a premonition, that these losers at the gun range with their mock battle rifles in “zombie hunter” day-glo camo (“Look, Jocelyn, I’m a zombie hunter! Sure can’t wait to hunt real people!”) were a severe impediment to their argument that semi-automatic rifles are vital, constitutionally-protected tools, is now an “empirically proven,” “evidence-based” debacle. The best they can hope for is to let silencers — sorry, suppressors — take center-stage in the debate while bump-stocks get quietly pulled off the market before the anti-gun world realizes they’re holding a royal flush. Try to remember this when you’re reading all the smug articles about gun control advocates’ “victory” over the NRA; out on the range they’ll be smugly celebrating too.

PS: Yeah I hate pieces that end like this too: “Whelp, nuthin’ we can do. Who’s hungry?” The problem is, even without all the word games and Brer Rabbit-style double-reverse-psychologizing, the gun world ultimately holds the high ground. They’re defending the status quo, so, much like the “innocent until there’s a body count” approach they’ve used for bullet button magnets and bump-stocks up till this point, the burden of proving its point has always rested on the pro-control camp’s shoulders. They’re the ones who have to actively convince people (and congresspeople) to do something. All the gun advocates have to do is stall the discussion and they’ve effectively won.

Meanwhile the “we’re the victims here” identity the NRA and other shootists have stuck to in obvious spite of their actual position has done such a number on the gun-clutching gullibles at their grass’s roots, they legitimately believe they’re waging war with a media conspiracy to ban guns.

While the idea of an industry-wide agreement to do anything should be hilarious to anyone who’s dealt with or especially worked in the actual media, I think it’d be obvious if the mainstream media actually wanted to promote gun control. All they’d have to do is one fucking thing: Print photos of bullet wounds. Not bodies under white sheets, not ejected casings on the sidewalk, not crying moms, definitely not pictures the murderer took in his bathroom mirror trying to look scary — just show America the real effects of gunshots every time they happen.

The gun world is right when they say all that most anti-gun advocates know about guns comes from the movies. Odds are good right now that the majority of whoever you are reading this (thanks for hanging in there, btw; you’re a trooper) are picturing a little circular hole with a trickle of blood beneath it whenever your eyes hit the words “bullet wound.” You’re probably not imagining the jagged, misshapen cavity left behind when a 12-gauge slug accidentally rips the muscle and skin out of a person’s ankle and strews it across the tile floor. Or the jawless face with its dead eyes still open of a suicide whose gun slipped just a fraction of an inch as he was pulling the trigger. You’re not because, unless you’re a pathologist, an ER worker or EMT, or a fan of early-90s death metal, you’ve never seen an actual bullet wound.

With over 100 gun deaths a day in this country, that’s like if the business section never printed a picture of a dollar bill. Showing the public gore helped end support for the Vietnam War — maybe it’s time we put it to use back home.

Bless you for making it to the end of this thing. Or at least for scrolling all the way down. Not to press my luck, but if you feel like contributing to my effort to keep alive and writing new things, my venmo is @Thomas-Morton-5. Thank you no matter what though — I love you.