Recently we have been inundated with a plethora of news articles on how magnificent a job the Assistant Customs Minister Jason Wood is doing in banning the importation of bump stocks. It is unusual to see a media release for a pending update on the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, it is a fairly technical piece of legislation, but it regularly changes typically without any fanfare or recognition from the relevant Minister.
In case you are unfamiliar with what a bump stock is, we would invite you to watch this 2012 video from one FPSRussia on the topic. Essentially they allow a person to ‘bump fire’ a rifle from the shoulder. This allows a person to use a semi-automatic firearm to roughly replicate the firing rate of a fully automatic firearm, though with less accuracy.
Bumpstocks were released in the US back in 2012, then banned by executive order in the US at the start of this year. Whether that ban will hold water against the ongoing legal challenges is yet to be seen, but at the time of writing the possession of a bump stock in the US is the same as possession of an unlawful machinegun – a serious federal offense that could see a violator spending 10 years in prison. Manufacturers, retailers and private owners have at this point nearly all been forced to destroy any bump stock in their possession. Given that the USA is essentially the only country where these devices exist, this means that nearly the entire legal global supply of them has been removed.
As we all know semi-automatic long arms are effectively prohibited outside of limited exceptions on a national basis. Notwithstanding the pool of literally hundreds of thousands of illegally held semiautomatic longarms, only a small fraction of Australia’s firearm owners are permitted to own such firearms.
So what point exactly is their in all the fanfare in banning their import? Essentially no one is now in a position to export them from the US. Practically none exist outside the US and the required semiautomatic rifles are effectively banned in Australia anyway.
Whilst we hold no particular objection to the prohibition on importing bumpstocks, the manner in which it has been publicized is simply moral grandstanding on something that will have no practical impact. If the government was serious about banning bumpstocks from being imported they would have done so some time between their release in the US in 2012 and their prohibition at the start of 2019.