ATF looks to research rules for classifying bump stocks

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plans to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking next week on the interpretation of how a machine gun is defined and how of bump fire stocks and similar devices aline with it.

Set to officially publish to the Federal Register the day after Christmas, the 13-page ANPRM as it stands would open a 30-day window for comments on the subject from the public.

Noting that when the National Firearms Act was established in 1934 — regulating machine gun ownership, possession and use — there were just a “handful” of guns classified as machine guns in circulation, the agency goes on to say that times have changed. Since the use of bump stocks in a shooting in Las Vegas in October that left 58 dead, the ATF has received calls from both the public and Congress to examine past classifications of bump stock devices.

“This ANPRM is the initial step in a regulatory process to interpret the definition of machine gun to clarify whether certain bump stock devices fall within that definition,” says the agency. “If, in a subsequent rulemaking, the definition of machine gun under section 5845 (b) is interpreted to include certain bump stock devices, ATF would then have a basis to re-examine its prior classification and rulings.”

To move toward examining a rule change, regulators want feedback from consumers as to what their experience is with how bump stocks are used and marketed and the prices they have encountered. From manufacturers and retailers of bump stocks, the ATF wants to know how many they have sold, how they were marketed and what would they expect to happen to their business and inventory if they were reclassified as machine guns.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month announced a review of federal law to determine if certain bump stock devices fall within the definition of “machine gun” and falls in line with calls from the National Rifle Association and others to take a second look at the now-controversial attachments.

The ATF deemed bump stock devices as accessories rather than a machine gun in 2010 after manufacturer Slide Fire voluntarily submitted their product to federal regulators for review. Officials said they cleared the device because it “performs no automatic mechanical function when installed” and the shooter must still apply “constant” forward and rearward pressure to the trigger and those associated with that call have defended the ruling.