Skip to Main Content

Giffords Law Center Reacts to Judicial Decision Upholding a Federal Ban on Bump Stocks

 Three-judge  panel of D.C. Circuit appeals court affirms  denial  of  injunction  to challengers of ATF rule; says challengers unlikely to succeed 

 ATF decided to regulate bump stocks as machine guns under new rule; Owners had 90 days to destroy or surrender their bump stocks 

April 1, 2019 — Giffords Law Center reacted to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirming a federal ban on bump stocks , devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to function like machine guns. In December, the Justice Department issued the rule, which clarified that existing prohibitions against fully automatic weapons also cover bump stocks. Under the new rule, owners of bump stocks were given 90 days to turn in or destroy them. That period ended on Tuesday, March 26 when the rule officially went into effect.

Statement from Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

“The most deadly mass shooting in modern American history proved bump stocks are a serious threat to public safety. Today’s decision from the DC Circuit represents an important and sensible step toward ensuring that those who intend to commit mass violence can’t get their hands on bump stocks. While this is an important step forward, the rules’ challengers will surely attempt further appeals, and a cloud of uncertainty will hover over this rule until the litigation challenges are exhausted. This uncertainty could have been avoided if Congress had the courage to pass a bump stock ban, and the President signed it into law–instead of letting bump stocks remain in circulation for over 500 days before a regulation was ever put in place. We urge Congress to ensure that bump stocks never go back on the market and move swiftly to pass comprehensive solutions to prevent gun violence.”

 Giffords Law Center amicus brief on the case 

Legal and Lethal: 9 Products that Could Be the Next Bump Stock

One year after a gunman in Las Vegas armed with assault weapons and bump stocks caused the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, Giffords released a report detailing how extremely lethal firearms and devices like bump stocks are being sold in such a way that they skirt federal laws designed to keep us safe. The report, Legal & Lethal: 9 Products That Could Be the Next Bump Stock, highlights numerous examples of legal firearms and accessories currently on the market due to legislative and technological loopholes exploited by the gun lobby. Since the Las Vegas massacre, federal leaders have expressed their outrage, but to this day many lethal firearms and devices that are as dangerous as bump stocks remain legal and continue to be marketed by gun manufacturers.

Background on Bump Stock Ban

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed a regulation outlawing the devices after Justice Department officials reviewed prior rulings and clarified the devices were illegal machine guns. Once the regulation was formally published, bump stock owners were given 90 days to either destroy or surrender their devices. That period ended on March 26, 2019.

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 Las Vegas 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 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 were 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.