Federal Action to Address Bump Stocks Stalls, Gun Safety Advocates Call on State Legislators to Lead the Way

November 1, 2017 — One month after the worst mass shooting in modern American history, federal lawmakers have yet to turn their words into action and address the role that bump stocks played in the massacre. In light of federal inaction, today, gun safety advocates are releasing a state legislative toolkit as part of an effort to aid state legislators in passing measures to prevent future tragedies by keeping these extremely lethal devices out of dangerous hands.

On October 1, a gunman in Las Vegas used multiple bump stock devices to convert semi-automatic rifles into weapons that fired 9 shots per second. Bump stocks and other similar devices are marketed to shooters seeking to convert their weapons to simulate the rapid continuous fire of an automatic firearm while using a semi-automatic gun. These devices are currently legal in most states and are not regulated by the federal government.

“There is little debate amongst law enforcement and gun law experts that in the case of Las Vegas, bump stocks helped a killer become a killing machine,” said Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords. “There are clear steps lawmakers must take to keep these extremely lethal devices out of dangerous hands, and the time to take action is now. Immediately following the shooting in Las Vegas, we heard both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill call for action to address bump stocks. While Americans should continue to voice frustration that efforts to save lives and make communities safer have stalled at the federal level, they should also call on state legislators to fight for progress. We’re encouraged to see many state leaders already stepping up to develop and introduce bump stock bills in states across the nation.”

The toolkit, released by Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, and SiX Action, an advocacy organization committed to achieving change at the state level, details legislative options for lawmakers who want to take action. States can protect their communities by looking to other legislation that has been enacted or introduced at the state and federal level, examples include:

  • California is one of the few states with a law against the sale, transfer, manufacture, and possession of bump stocks, trigger cranks, and similar devices.
  • New York’s law generally restricts “machine guns and any other firearm or weapon simulating a machine gun and is adaptable for such use.” Legislators in New York have already introduced legislation to expand its restriction to apply to bump stock devices themselves, in addition to weapons equipped with such devices.

The toolkit advises that the most effective legislation to address bump stocks and similar devices should apply to firearm accessories and hardware that significantly increase a semi-automatic firearm rate of fire beyond the standard rate of fire for a semi-automatic firearm.

“For far too long, our country has stood idly by in the wake of horrific mass shootings, unable to overcome partisan divisions and pass commonsense measures to curb gun violence and prevent senseless tragedy,” said Nick Rathod, Executive Director, SIX Action. “In the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas, it is clear that a ban on bump stocks is a logical step to take to reduce gun fatalities. I’m hopeful this toolkit will provide legislators with useful information as they consider such bans in their states.”

Read the State Legislative Toolkit: Addressing Bump Stocks

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Background information on bump stocks

  • According to ATF, even when a bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic rifle, the gun is still not a machine gun, since the trigger has to function once for each bullet that leaves the barrel. This means that they are not subject to federal registration requirements when they are manufactured or transferred. California law currently bans bump stocks and other devices under its multiburst trigger activators prohibition.
  • Even though they are not regulated like machine guns, bump stocks allow a person to hold a finger steady, and simply “bump” the gun against his or her shoulder back into the trigger.  The person does not have to pull the trigger each time.  Bump firing is the act of using the recoil of a semi-automatic firearm to fire shots in rapid succession to simulate a fully automatic rate of fire.
  • Bump stocks—specialized rifle stocks that allow shooters to more accurately bump fire rifles without compromising accuracy—are legal to be sold and not regulated by the federal government. The Slide Fire® bump stock, for example, was ruled by ATF in 2010 as an accessory “intended to assist persons whose hands have limited mobility to Bump Fire an AR-15 type rifle” and did not qualify for regulation under the Gun Control Act of 1968 or National Firearms Act.
  • Mass shooters choose guns that allow for rapid-fire because they increase casualties.  For example, the TEC DC-9 assault pistol used to kill eight and wound six in a mass shooting at the Pettit and Martin law firm in San Francisco in 1993 was equipped with a Hellfire trigger activator.