Justice Department Announces Promised Ban On Bump Stocks

Originally published on February 21, 2019 1:46 pm

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a new federal regulation that reclassifies bump stocks as machine guns, making bump stocks illegal in most cases under the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act.

As soon as the Department of Justice submits its final rule to the Federal Register, which a DOJ official said is expected in the next several days, possessing bump stocks and similar devices that enhance the rate of fire of semi-automatic firearms will become effectively illegal.

Semi-automatic guns fire one bullet per trigger pull. Bump stocks harness the gun’s recoil to speed up the rate of fire, allowing the gun to pump out bullets faster, which effectively converts a gun into a machine gun, according to the DOJ rule. Automatic machine guns are tightly regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Once the regulations are published in the register, the rule will take effect within 90 days. Owners of bump stocks will have the same amount of time to destroy their devices or turn them into the ATF. While there’s no federal registry for bump stocks, the DOJ estimates there could be more than 10,000 owned in the U.S.

Bump stocks gained notoriety after a gunman attached the plastic device to a semi-automatic weapon and shot and killed 58 people, and injured more than 800, in Las Vegas in October 2017.

Ten states enacted state-level bump stock bans after the Las Vegas shooting. And at least one lawmaker suggested passing legislation that would ban the devices, as a federal regulation may be more likely to be challenged in court.

“We still need the clear and certain protection that can only come from legislation banning these deadly devices for good,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn). “I will continue to call for a vote on legislation to close the bump stock loophole in the automatic weapons ban.”

The ban could be challenged by states that don’t have a ban in place, bump stock owners, the National Rifle Association, or other parties.

While a ban on bump stocks is unlikely to have a significant effect on violent crime, bump stock regulation is seen as a rare area of gun regulation with bipartisan appeal.

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

Copyright 2019 Guns and America. To see more, visit Guns and America.