Acting AG Signs New Bump Stock Ban

Devices Must Be Destroyed Within 90 Days of Rule Being Published

After months of speculation on whether such a measure could be taken under an ostensibly pro-RKBA administration, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed a new rule today that classifies “bump stocks” as machine guns and bans their possession. The rule, set to take effect 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register – which is expected to happen this Friday – would require current owners of the devices to destroy them.

The BATFE had previously concluded that such devices were unable to be federally regulated as such because they are simply an accessory part. Following the Mandalay Bay attack in October 2017 in which the attacker allegedly used weapons equipped with such devices, President Trump prompted the DOJ to revisit the matter. AG Jeff Sessions introduced the proposed legislation in March 2018.

The new rule inaccurately concludes that these devices allow a “shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger,” making it a machine gun. Generally, under current regulations, possession or transfer of a machine gun manufactured prior to May 19, 1986 – the date on which the Firearms Owners Protection Act (and the Hughes Amendment thereof) went into effect.

The complete Final Rule can be read here. The summary of the rule reads as follows (emphasis added):

The Department of Justice is amending the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to clarify that bump-stock-type devices […] are “machineguns” as defined by the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 because such devices allow a shooter of a semiautomatic firearm to initiate a continuous firing cycle with a single pull of the trigger. Specifically, these devices convert an otherwise semiautomatic firearm into a machinegun by functioning as a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that harnesses the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm in a manner that allows the trigger to reset and continue firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter. Hence, a semiautomatic firearm to which a bump-stock-type device is attached is able to produce automatic fire with a single pull of the trigger. With limited exceptions, the Gun Control Act, as amended, makes it unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machinegun unless it was lawfully possessed prior to the effective date of the statute. The bumpstock-type devices covered by this final rule were not in existence prior to the effective date of the statute, and therefore will be prohibited when this rule becomes effective. Consequently, under the final rule, current possessors of these devices will be required to destroy the devices or abandon them at an ATF office prior to the effective date of the rule.

The BATFE sought public comment on the proposal, receiving upward of 100,000 comments, although passage of such a rule seems to have been a foregone conclusion with direction straight from the White House. Given the Second and Fifth Amendment concerns surrounding the issue and the time frame for it to go into effect, we expect to see a number of legal challenges to the rule.

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