Late last year in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, the ATF announced it would determine whether a bump stock, the device which enables a semi-auto firearm to achieve a rate of fire approximating full-auto, falls under the definition of “machine gun” as defined in the National Firearms Act of 1934. Before doing so, the agency sought comment from the general public, as well as gun manufacturers and retailers. The comment period lasted until Jan. 25 of this year. The ATF received over 36,000 submissions, and wouldn’t you know it, a whopping 85 percent of the comments submitted were opposed to any form of bump stock regulation, while 13 percent were in favor of regulation.

How did those numbers come about? Well, a publication called The Trace downloaded the text of 32,764 comments and ran them through a computer script, which divvied them up into form letters and unique comments. Of the form letters, 21 percent were anti-regulation, while seven percent were pro-regulation.

Researchers for The Trace then randomly selected 1,000 unique comments and tagged them as either pro or anti-regulation in order to get an idea of the “overall sentiment” of the unique comments. Of those comments, 64 percent were anti-regulation and six percent were pro-regulation.

All told, 72 percent of the comments received—about 23,000—were unique comments. Most of the anti-regulation form letters were similar to one created by the Gun Owners of America. A majority of the pro-regulation form letters came from a letter supplied by the Giffords Law Center.

The Trace also found that those who are against any form of bump stock regulation were “more verbose” in their comments, with messages that were 45 percent longer than those in favor of regulation.

“The results of our analysis showcase a paradox of the gun debate. While widespread public support exists for many gun regulations and policies — from bump stocks to background checks — pro-gun advocates are significantly more active than their counterparts when it comes to engaging politicians and government agencies,” The Trace said.

Bump stocks were originally approved by the ATF in 2010.

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