The Department of Justice unveiled a regulation late last week “effectively banning” bump stocks.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the new rule clarifies bump stocks fall under the definition of “machine gun” as it pertains to the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968.
“Since the day he took office, President Trump has had no higher priority than the safety of each and every American,” Sessions said in a news release Friday. “That is why today the Department of Justice is publishing for public comment a proposed rulemaking that would define ‘machinegun’ to include bump stock-type devices under federal law—effectively banning them.”
The move comes five weeks after Trump publicly leaned on Sessions and the department to draft a regulation banning bump stocks — and soon. The accessory, which mimics automatic gun fire, gained notoriety in October after a lone gunman mowed down 58 people and injured more than 850 others on the Las Vegas strip with a dozen rifles modified with the devices.
“After the senseless attack in Las Vegas, this proposed rule is a critical step in our effort to reduce the threat of gun violence that is in keeping with the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress,” Sessions said.
The proposal represents an about-face for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Back in 2010, the agency declined regulating a bump stock device submitted for review by Texas-based manufacturer Slide Fire Solutions. Rick Vasquez, the now-retired agent who made the call, stood by his decision in October after federal investigators found the same brand attached to firearms in the Las Vegas shooter’s hotel suite.
“The Slide Fire does not fire automatically with a single pull/function of the trigger,” he said in an Oct. 7 Facebook post, noting the single pull trigger remains integral to the definition of a machine gun.
He responded briefly to the impending ban in an email to Guns.com last month. “The ATF has been directed to write a regulation that is stronger then the law,” he said. “An agency can write regulations, but only Congress can write laws.”
Nonetheless, the ATF said in the proposal Friday its previous interpretation was wrong.
“In this proposed rule, the department accordingly interprets the definition of ‘machine gun’ to clarify that all bump stock-type devices are ‘machine guns’ under the GCA and NFA because they convert a semiautomatic firearms into a firearm that shoots automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger,” the DOJ said Friday.
The official notice of proposed rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register, Sessions said.
In the meantime, gun rights groups have already promised a legal challenge.
“Gun Owners of America will seek out other pro-gun organizations to join us challenging this illegal executive action in court,” said Gun Owners of America Executive Director Erich Pratt in a news release Friday. “And we predict that an honest, constitutional and legal analysis by the courts will result in this regulation being struck down.”
Pratt eviscerated Trump for placing himself farther left than the Obama administration, noting the president’s predecessor did nothing when the ATF initially determined bump stocks harmless in 2010.
“Gun Owners of America considers a ban on bump stocks as yet another infringement of our Second Amendment-protected rights. ‘Shall not be infringed’ means what it says — gun control should NOT be the jurisdiction of the U.S. government,” he said. “To be sure, banning these items will not make us any safer and it will only lead to more infringements — to restrictions on magazines, match triggers and more. This is something that the anti-gun Left understands and is hoping for.”