ATF will regulate bump stocks as machine guns under new rule, is likely to face legal challenges in court
Owners will have 90 days to destroy or surrender their bump stocks
December 18, 2018 — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly, reacted to the Trump Administration’s announcement that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) will ban the production and distribution of bump stocks by labeling them as machine guns under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. ATF will now officially classify bump fire stocks as illegal conversion devices because they convert a semi-automatic rifle into a fully automatic rifle, though the rule is likely to face court challenges.
Statement from David Chipman, Giffords Senior Policy Advisor and retired ATF Special Agent of 25 years:
“In the year since the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, bump stocks have remained available for purchase—and in danger of falling into the wrong hands. In that same time the country’s gun violence crisis has continued unabated while the Trump Administration has done nothing to stop it. Today’s decision is a sad reminder that a bump stocks ban could have been done more quickly and effectively were it not for lawmakers’ insistence on passing the buck. The new rule only keeps the door open for prolonged judicial disputes—leaving these harmful devices in the market. This action won’t bring the progress we need—that will take an act of Congress.
“Both before and after the Las Vegas shooting, we have seen mass shooting after mass shooting: Parkland, Pittsburgh, Thousand Oaks. The American public no longer feels safe because individuals who shouldn’t have access to firearms are able to get their hands on a gun. Those shootings were far too deadly because individuals were able to access assault weapons. Banning bump stocks is a positive step, but it is not enough. It won’t stop these mass shootings, which is why Congress must act swiftly to pass comprehensive solutions to prevent gun violence.”
Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed a regulation outlawing the devices after Justice Department officials re-reviewed case law and chose to reclassify the devices as illegal machines guns. Once the regulation is formally published by the end of the week, bump stock owners will have 90 days to either destroy or surrender their devices.
The Justice Department’s ban comes after nearly a yearlong process that followed the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada where a gunman opened fire from a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel into the 22,000 person crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 on October 1, 2017.
The gunman fired more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition in 11 minutes, using semi-automatic rifles modified with dangerous firearm accessories designed to dramatically accelerate the rate of gunfire, commonly known as “bump fire stocks.”
On December 26, 2017, ATF took the first step toward reclassifying bump stocks by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to request information on the market for bump stocks, with a suggestion that it may one day define “machinegun” to include bump stocks. This was in response to Congressional failure to move forward with votes on multiple bills that were introduced after the tragedy in Las Vegas.
After the first round of feedback to ATF, Giffords organized a way for supporters to take action and demand regulation of these dangerous devices. These efforts helped change the course of the comment period. The results reversed after the second round of feedback, with 73 percent of comments to ATF favoring regulation.
Bump stocks are intended to circumvent the federal restrictions on possession of fully automatic firearms by allowing an individual to modify a semi-automatic rifle in such a manner that it operates with a similar rate of fire as a fully automatic rifle, posing a substantial risk to public safety.
Eight in ten Americans, including 77% of Republicans, support banning these dangerous devices. Nearly three-fourths of voters in gun-owning households feel the same way. Broad bipartisan support to legislatively regulate or ban bump stocks is evident in state legislatures, law enforcement, and communities across the United States. While Congress has yet to take action, states across the country have taken meaningful and bipartisan action to ban bump stocks. Republican governors in both Massachusetts and New Jersey have signed bills into law, and legislatures in an additional 25 states have introduced versions of bump stocks bans.