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Justice Department Bans Bump Stocks

On Tuesday, the Trump administration issued a new federal regulation that officially bans bump stocks. The firearm attachments enable semi-automatic rifles, which are legal in the U.S., to fire like machine guns, which are illegal. They are most notable for being used in the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, which was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S., in which a gunman used them to kill 58 people and wound hundreds of others in a span of ten minutes.

The regulation bans the sale and possession of bump stocks in the U.S. and was signed on Tuesday by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. It will take effect 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on Friday. Those who own the devices would have 90 days to either destroy or turn them in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which would post instructions on how to destroy the devices on its website

Previously, A.T.F. had declared bump stocks to be merely a gun accessory or firearm part, and therefore not subject to federal regulation. However, much to the surprise of gun-control advocates and Trump opposers, Trump called for the devices to be outlawed soon after the Las Vegas shooting. On Tuesday, Justice Department officials concluded that bump stocks, slide-fire devices, and devices with similar characteristics fall within the regulations placed on machine guns. They allow shooters to continuously fire by pulling the trigger only once, and are illegal under federal law for that reason. 

The New York Times reported that a Justice Department official who briefed reporters on the new rule said it is believed that there are tens of thousands of bump stocks in circulation in the U.S. They also said that the department expects most owners to comply with the regulation and that A.T.F. would investigate and take legal action against those who refuse to comply.

The AP reports that the regulation was almost immediately met with resistance from gun rights advocates and groups. The Gun Owners of America Group said it would file a lawsuit against the Justice Department and A.T.F., citing the regulation as imposing “unconstitutional regulations” on gun owners.

Overall, the Trump Administration’s ban on bump stocks seems uncharacteristic of the administration, but it was not unexpected. Trump reportedly called on the Justice Department to ban the devices in October 2017, saying that they “turn legal weapons into illegal machines.” Still, we should only take this action with a grain of salt, and we should not allow Trump or his administration to use this regulation to placate the gun control movement and its advocates. This regulation is good, but it will take much more than banning bump stocks to address the gun violence epidemic in the U.S.

Photo: Reuters

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