The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives opened the public comment period this week on a rule effectively banning bump stocks.
The agency published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register on Thursday, which would change the current definition of “machine gun” under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 to include bump stock-type devices.
The current definition under federal law, according to gun rights attorney Adam Kraut, is as follows: “Any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun, and any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”
The ATF rule would change the law to read: “For purposes of this definition, the term ‘automatically’ as it modifies ‘shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot,’ means functioning as the result of a self-acting or self-regulating mechanism that allows the firing of multiple rounds through a single function of the trigger; and ‘single function of the trigger’ means a single pull of the trigger. The term ‘machine gun’ includes bump-stock-type devices, i.e., devices that allow a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm to which it is affixed so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.”
The new language appears to correct the agency’s previous opinion — issued in 2010 after reviewing a bump stock submitted by Texas-based manufacturer Slide Fire Solutions — that the devices weren’t worth regulating.
Rick Vasquez, the now-retired ATF agent who made the call on bump stocks eight years ago, stood by his decision in October. He criticized the latest proposal, arguing it goes beyond the agency’s authoritative reach.
“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.”
The rule comes two months after President Trump pressured the Department of Justice to draft a regulation banning bump stocks or else he’d “write them out” himself. 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,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week.
The public comment period closes on June 27.