“I built something, and a madman is taking it all away,” exclaimed Jeremiah Cottle, shortly after the deadliest mass shooting in American history took place last year in Las Vegas.
Who is Jeremiah Cottle? The inventor of the ‘bump stock’ who built is a multimillion-dollar empire based on the simple idea of converting a semiautomatic rifle into a weapon that can fire up to 800 rounds per minute, about the same as a fully automatic machine gun. Bloomberg reports how we got here…
After leaving the U.S. Air Force in 2005, Jeremiah Cottle came up with an idea for a device that uses a rifle’s recoil, or bump, against a stiffened trigger finger to approximate automatic fire. He went down to his woodworking shop, and in about two hours he built a crude prototype out of some scrap wood, PVC pipe, and duct tape.
By mid-2010, Cottle was ready to start selling his device, but he first needed clearance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. To comply with federal law, he simply needed to demonstrate that the bump stock was itself not a machine gun. In a letter to the ATF, Slide Fire argued that its product was an accessory to help people with disabilities who had difficulty firing the AR-15, a semiautomatic civilian version of the M-16 military assault rifle. The ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch ruled that the bump stock is a gun part, one that isn’t integral to the functioning of the weapon, and as such excluded it from federal firearm regulations, according to a June 7, 2010, letter from the bureau. Two years later the ATF made a similar determination in reviewing another bump stock maker’s device.
Armed with the ATF’s blessing, Cottle and his then-wife, Lora, started the company out of their bedroom and a shed where they kept the family dogs. They plowed $ 120,000 into the business, scraping money together from retirement savings, his veterans benefits, and selling guns and ammunition, according to records filed in relation to the couple’s divorce. To protect his investment, Cottle also filed multiple patents, claiming ownership over the bump stock design and invention.
Slide Fire’s bump stocks were an immediate hit. Within the first year, sales exceeded $ 10 million, and the company shipped more than 35,000 units. Slide Fire hasn’t disclosed sales since 2011, but considering the growth of the industry, there are likely tens if not hundreds of thousands of bump stocks in gun owners’ hands. To keep up with demand, Cottle built a 22,000-square-foot, near-windowless, corrugated-steel compound to serve as headquarters and an assembly plant on part of his family’s farm. He hired about two dozen people, including buddies from the Air Force, and housed some of them in trailers on the property. He even hired the town’s mayor and his wife to work in the plant. For Moran, a town that consists of little more than a few roads, a liquor store, a bank, and some clapboard homes and where most people work as ranch hands and in nearby oil fields, Slide Fire was a godsend to the local economy.
Which brings us to last night and President Trump’s orders to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ban ‘bump stocks’.
Simply put, Trump directed Sessions to clarify if ‘bump stocks’ are illegal, and to propose regulations to “ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns,” effectively ending the loophole for bump stocks.
This has sent the price for ‘bump stocks’ soaring yet again, as Bloomberg reports, auction prices ranged from just over retail to as much as a $ 1,000.
Dramatically more expensive than the original retail price.
On Gun Broker, a firearms auction platform, bump stock prices quickly rose.
Gun Owners of America executive director Erich Pratt said in a statement…
“That is a gross infringement of Second Amendment rights.”
He argued that such a ban could be extended to triggers, magazines, or semi-automatic firearms.
“While Trump ran as a pro-gun candidate, this action does not appear to line up with his campaign rhetoric.”
Back in Moran last November, Bloomberg concludes by detailing their interaction with ‘bump stock’-inventor Cottle as he stood outside the locked door of Slide Fire’s headquarters, looking like he’s still processing the shock of the past several days. His eyes are bloodshot and moist. He seems anxious, distraught, exhausted. “It’s been rough,” he says. “There are the death threats. People are coming after my kids. Words can’t describe,” he says, his voice trailing off.